Arts Are Jobs, Too

October 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

About a month ago, an award winning lighting designer by the name of Jeffery Salzberg posted a facebook note entitled “Arts Are Jobs, Too.” Though I am not friends with Mr. Salzberg, nor do we have any facebook friends in common, and yes, I checked, this note was pretty hard to miss. The main point of the note was sparked from a dinner party Mr. Salzberg attended where a fellow artist made the following comment, “I care about arts funding, too, but jobs are more important.”

Yes, an artist actually said that. I’m going to pretend that the artist who would have the audacity to say something like that is not faring too well with his or her career and as a result doesn’t have an arts job, but instead is working retail at a Babies R Us. However, that is an issue for another blog. Mr. Salzberg went on to say how we artists “need to stop thinking of ourselves as charity cases.” He’s right. This would be a good place to insert a cliché about helping oneself, something about believing in oneself, or keeping the faith. You pick whichever one is pertinent to you and keep reading, please.

The final thought Mr. Salzberg left his readers with is “Arts funding is jobs funding.” Again, he’s right. Now, you neither need a degree in the arts nor in rocket science to know why he’s right, but in case you cannot logically put it together, I’ll help you. Also, it’s probably not your fault you don’t understand, it’s not on the standardized tests.

First, we’re going to look at some governmental things. I just did a quick search on U.S. Census Bureau’s North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) webpage. According to the 2007 NAICS report, there are 43 industries with the word “arts” in their title. When I searched the word “music” I came up with 104 industries. “Theater” produced 46 industries. “Dance” had 40 different industries. So by looking up arts, music, theater and dance, I found 235 arts related industries. Also, there is an entire industry sector devoted to “Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation.” NAICS has 61 defined industries under the sector of Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation. That means there are 174 industries in different sectors that are related to the arts. Out of the 19,720 total industries, 1.3% of them are arts related. That’s a pretty decent market share for such a specialized industry.

Second, I’m going bring up the timeless argument of how the arts support the economy. Dinner and show. Need I say more? Well, I’m going to. So you’re a single guy (or girl) and you have a date Friday night. You want to make a good impression on her (or him), so you think you’ll take him (or her) to a show. That makes you look deep and cultured and mature. Then you think to yourself, “Self, I can’t really get to know someone on a date if I’m just going sit in a dark theatre for two hours and not talk to him (or her). Dear Self, what should I do?” Then in a stroke of pure brilliance, you think, “I’ll take her (or him) to dinner first!” That way you and your date can actually have a discussion. Plus you can figure out if he’s (or she’s) attractive in fluorescent lighting. Now you’re on the right track. And, of course, after the show you’re going to go out for coffee or some other libation and talk about how awesome (or terrible) the show was – and a great date was had by all.

My third and final point is really a testament to your intelligence. Do you think arts productions and movies and concerts happen by magic? Do you think people put on shows just for kicks? If you answered yes to one or both of these questions, you just tested positive for ignorance. Arts organizations have to pay their employees just like private companies. We need marketers, accountants, CEOs, and IT people to run the offices. And we need carpenters, seamstresses, painters, electricians, and inventors (props people) to create our stages. Then the artists who have been practicing for months will put the finishing touches on our products. The final products you see in the concert halls and theatres do not just happen overnight and for nothing. People and money are behind them, just like the coffee you drink every morning.

Please remember, when you fund the arts you are funding people, businesses, and the economy. Money spent on the arts is not money wasted, but money invested in the advancement of our society.

–Carolyne Hall


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