Make the Arts Accessible to all Americans
By New Orleans Mayor Marc MorialMarch 10, 1997
As you read this, The United States Conference of Mayors will be joining with over seventy national organizations in sponsoring Arts Advocacy Day. Held on March 11th this year, this annual event focuses the country on the need to support public funding for the arts and humanities at a level that fulfills the federal government's responsibility to make the arts accessible to all Americans.
As part of our Arts Advocacy Day activities, over 250 mayors co-signed a letter of support for the National Endowment for the Arts which will be sent to the President and each Member of Congress. Mayors from across the country will be participating in hundreds of local arts advocacy activities in their cities as well as walking the halls of Congress in Washington to voice their support for the arts.
The American public overwhelmingly supports governmental funding for the arts. The latest public opinion poll on the arts conducted by Lou Harris, concludes that 79% of the American public favors a governmental role in funding the arts; 61% would pay $5 more in taxes to support the arts; and 86% of adult Americans participated in the arts last year.
As mayors of communities of every size and in every corner of America, we 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 $650 million in local government funds for the arts through our local arts agencies.
The arts are a great investment in the economic growth of every community. The nonprofit arts industry alone generates $36.8 billion annually in economic activity, supports 1.3 million jobs and returns $3.4 billion of the federal government in income taxes. The arts also attract new tourism dollars - one of the fastest growing economic markets in the country today.
In my own city of New Orleans, we have provided matching fund support for over 51 community arts organizations and projects: Commisioned artists' work for the Martin Luther King Elementary School and Library, and the Professor Longhair Square; providedservices to low and moderate income artists through the Entergy Arts Business Center: and are working in partnership with the Arts Council of New Orleans on a major economic development project for urban revitalization through the development of the $12 million Louisiana Artists Guild facility.
The New Orleans Center for Creative Arts began with a $30,000 grant from the NEA. Graduates of the Center include Grammy winning Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick Jr. Today with state and private funds, we are building a $23 million dollar facility near our French Quarter. In addition, we are using our music and culture as a economic development resource. Film and video is a growth industry in our city with a combined economic impact of $2 billion dollars. New Orleans and the surrounding region is being used as a location shoot for many major productions and the influence of New Orleans music is known world wide.
The arts are also a powerful educational tool that improves a child's cognition and communication skills, increase confidence and prepares young people to compete more effectively in the global marketplace. Studies have shown that students who study the arts continue to outperform non-arts students on the Scholastic Aptitude Tests.
As we prepare to enter the new millennium, we see the arts and humanities as serving an essential vehicle to educate our citizens, help our struggling youth, spur economic growth and bring us together as a nation. We need to maintain our federal commitment to preserve our country's rich cultural heritage and traditions and to nurture imagination and creativity to strengthen the future of this country.
Congress cannot 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 64th Annual Meeting in Cleveland last year, we oppose the elimination or phase-out of our federal cultural agencies and oppose any further reductions of their budgets. All of our sectors -federal, state, local and private- need to work together to bring our rich cultural resources to all of our peoples.
Copyright © 1996, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.