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Is there a Better Case for the Arts?
A Public Conversation Among People Who Care

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March 11, 2005

Closing Out

It's been terrific week and I want to thank my fellow bloggers and commenters for the fabulous exchange of ideas. I am flattered to have been invited to participate with such an august group of arts intellectuals, which believe me, I am not. Thank you, Doug.

I represent the ground troops, battling every day to secure funding, keep arts at the policy table, help artists and arts orgs fulfill their missions and realize their goals (or sometimes just keep the doors open) and find new ways to advance the work we all love. I will continue to do this work at the local level, but I agree with Bill and Midori who suggest that the arts should identify and pursue a "big idea," like guitars for every fifth grader. In King County, we'd love to see every child learn to read music before they complete middle school.

I have been reminded in this blog that the arts are much bigger than the non-profit sector and that policy may have much bigger impact on the arts than funding.

And I agree with all of the commenters who said artists should be elected to school boards, and city and county councils. Artists should be an integral part of a community, not consigned to the fringe.

I entered this conversation because I felt I needed a new case for the arts. I mentioned in my first blog that I am battling in the state legislature on behalf of a bill that will secure arts funding in King County for the foreseeable future. We have a hearing next Tuesday. I had hoped to find some new argument that would seal the deal. Instead, I gained a new appreciation for the tried and true, and new insights into the multiple benefits that we all experience when the arts thrive in a community.

I will use economic impact arguments next week. When asked by legislators why they should fund the arts instead of health and human services, I will tell them that the arts are a health and human service. I will echo commenter William Osborne that a civil and healthy society doesn't choose between the arts and transporation; it finds a way to do both. Wish me luck.

Signing off.

Posted by jkelly at March 11, 2005 03:30 PM


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Remember Me?

This weeklong weblog is now closed, but will remain on-line as an archive of our conversation. In addition, the entries and reader comments are available for download in Adobe Acrobat format, suitable for reading on-screen or printing. You will need the free Acrobat reader software to open the files below:

Participant Entries (~880K, pdf)
Full text of the posts of our 11 invited participants.
Reader Comments (~900K, pdf)
Full text of reader comments posted to the site.

Is there a better case to be made for the arts? more...

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Ben Cameron
Executive director of Theatre Communications Group more

Adrian Ellis
Managing consultant of AEA Consulting more

Bill Ivey
Director of the Curb Center, Former Chair, NEA more

Joli Jensen
Professor, University of Tulsa, Author: "Is Art Good for Us?" more

Jim Kelly
Director, 4Culture, Seattle, WA more

Phil Kennicott
Culture critic, Washington Post more

Glenn Lowry
Director, Museum of Modern Art more

Robert L. Lynch
President, Americans for the Arts more

Violinist more

Andrew Taylor
Director, Bolz Center, University of Wisconsin more

Russell Willis Taylor
President, National Arts Strategies more

Doug McLennan
Editor, ArtsJournal.com

Gifts of the MuseGifts of the Muse
Free access to the full RAND study at the core of this conversation, funded by the Wallace Foundation. An executive summary is also available. Other Wallace Foundation publications and reports are available through its Knowledge Center.

Top arts researchers will come together to present and dissect the latest data at Measuring the Muse, an unprecedented National Arts Journalism Program-Alliance for the Arts conference at Columbia University.

The Values Study
A collaborative effort of 20 Connecticut arts organizations, the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, and facilitator/author Alan S. Brown. The effort trained arts leaders to interview key members of their constituency, to discover what they valued about the creative experience -- in their own words. The process was sponsored by The Wallace Foundation's State Arts Partnerships for Cultural Participation (START) Program.

Valuing Culture
An initiative of London-based think tank, Demos. This effort brought cultural and policy leaders together to discuss the public value of culture in the UK. Resources include (with a downloadable briefing report by Adrian Ellis), a collection of speeches from the event in June 2003, and a summary report by John Holden called Capturing Cultural Value.

The Arts and Economic Prosperity
The 2002 report and related resources assessing the economic impact of America's nonprofit arts industry, based on surveys of 3,000 nonprofit arts organizations and more than 40,000 attendees at arts events in 91 cities in 33 states, plus the District of Columbia.

The Value of the Performing Arts in Ten Communities
A project of the Performing Arts Research Coalition, researched by the Urban Institute, exploring measures of value in specific cities across the United States. Reports are available for download.

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