The Arts are the Creative Soul of Our Cities
By New Orleans Mayor Marc H. Morial,
March 9, 1998
Chair, USCM Arts, Culture and Recreation Committee
As you read this, The United States Conference of Mayors will be joining with over fifty national organizations in sponsoring Arts Advocacy Day. Held on March 10th this year, this annual event focuses the country on the need to support public funding for the arts, humanities, and arts education at a level that fulfills the federal government's responsibility to make the arts accessible to all Americans.
As part of Arts Advocacy Day activities, mayors will come to Washington and join with arts advocates from across the country and lobby Members of Congress and the Administration on the importance to maintain federal support of the arts. Mayors will also be participating in hundreds of local arts advocacy activities in their own cities.
The mayors will be speaking in many voices, but they will all have the same message. "The arts are the creative soul of our cities and we will not allow our soul to be taken away." For it is this creative soul which has produced America's great painters, musicians and other great artists as well as every little child on a street corner beating a set of drums.
Last week at our Winter Arts Conference hosted by Cerritos Mayor Bruce Barrows, I learned some frightening news -- that arts education in our schools has actually declined over the past 25 years. This statistic should serve as an alarm bell for all of us. For it has been proven by numerous studies that early childhood arts education can dramatically improve a child's cognition and communication skills, increase confidence and can better prepare young people to be better able to compete more effectively in the global marketplace. Studies have further shown that students who study the arts continue to outperform non-arts students on the Scholastic Achievement Tests. We mayors need to take an inventory of the arts education in our own communities and work towards restoring the right balance.
As mayors of communities of every size and in every corner of America, we also know first hand the value that the arts bring to our cities. In partnership with the $99 million federal investment that the National Endowment for the Arts made in our nation's cultural initiatives this past year, the mayors invested over $650 million in local government funds for the arts through our local arts agencies and that amount keeps increasing each year.
The arts are also a great investment in the economic growth of our cities. The nonprofit arts industry alone generates over $36 billion annually in economic activity, supports 1.3 million jobs and returns over $3 billion to the federal government in income taxes. The arts also help attract new tourism dollars-one of the fastest growing economic markets in the country today. In my own city, the arts help to generate over $1 billion annually in economic activity.
It is for these reasons, as well for pure enjoyment, that the American public overwhelmingly supports governmental funding for the arts. The latest public opinion poll on the arts conducted by Lou Harris, concludes that almost 80 percent of Americans favor a governmental role in funding the arts; 61percent would pay $5 or more in taxes to support the arts; and over 85 percent of adult Americans have participated in the arts.
Congress can not expect state and local governments or the private sector to make up for the cuts in the federal government's share. Therefore, as we stated in our resolution passed at our 65th Annual Meeting in San Francisco last year, we oppose the elimination or phase-out of our federal cultural agencies and oppose any further reductions of their budgets. The arts are not elitist for they have been shown to save lives, help our children and bring forth the best in all of us.