OTHER OPINION: Consider the measurable impact of the arts

By Sun Herald, Gulfport/Biloxi

For some, the value of the arts cannot be calculated. They promote their favorite form of artistic expression the way MGM promoted its movies, with the motto “Ars Gratia Artis,” or simply “art for art’s sake.”
But public policy, such as taxpayer support for museums and other cultural attractions, needs a firmer foundation. And as Bloomberg News reports, hard facts are available as never before: “ … Assessments of economic activity often simply overlook the art world.”
Consider, though, a few cold calculations: Americans spend about $14.5 billion a year on the performing arts alone – everything from opera, dance and symphony concerts to circuses, magic acts and Las Vegas shows – a 2011 study by the National Endowment for the Arts found.
And according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, a branch of the Commerce Department, in 2009, the performing arts, together with museums and sports activities (the bureau has traditionally grouped these into one sector), contributed $70.9 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product. In that same year, the motion-picture and sound-recording industries added $59.8 billion, and publishing contributed $147.7 billion.
In other words, art does have a dollar value – it’s just one that analysts haven’t fully added up. So it is welcome news that the bureau will now measure the creative sector’s specific effects on the macroeconomy. Thanks to a new partnership with the National Endowment, bureau researchers will make hard measurements of how much artistic and cultural activities contribute to GDP.”
We encourage local governments and the Mississippi Legislature, which convenes next week, to consider these measurements as they establish their spending priorities. Our cultural institutions do more than lift our spirits and expand our minds, they also support and stimulate our economy.
- Sun Herald, Gulfport/Biloxi