With public funding for the arts under siege in some quarters these days, it might be worth everyone taking a deep breath and keeping a few things in perspective. While the arts offer many benefits that are unquantifiable, they also bring more easily defined — and economically sound — pluses to public investment in culture.
For proof, you need only look to the Arts Council of Oklahoma City and the tremendous impact it has had on the community at large. The organization sponsors a number of annual events and projects, perhaps most notably the Festival of the Arts and New Year's Eve's “Opening Night,” that greatly enrich quality of life in this city.
And the Arts Council has done it with a cost-effectiveness that would impress any bottom-line businessman, spending only 11 percent of its yearly budget on administrative costs.
Even in the midst of our lingering recession, it pays to promote, not kill, the arts. First, it's just good business. Nonprofit arts and cultural organizations translate into a $314.8 million impact on Oklahoma's economy through jobs, tax revenues and increased tourism. While state and local governments certainly must make hard decisions during a budget crisis, it seems shortsighted at best, and ineffective at worst, to slash programs that leverage such hefty economic dividends.
Moreover, the arts generate something else just as important for economic development. A robust cultural climate not only lures tourists, it attracts businesses looking to relocate. A recent study by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber found that city leaders face a number of challenges in terms of how the city is viewed by corporate leaders and workers nationwide. Among them is a misperception that Oklahoma City is culturally bereft — a misperception that can dissuade corporate relocation.