The arts are critical to Connecticut’s future and every man, woman and child can make a contribution in some way to the state.
As an artist and member of the Connecticut Arts Council, I am acutely aware of the contributions that the arts and culture provide to the state’s economy. The Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 study, released in June, demonstrated that arts and culture across Connecticut generated $797.3 million in economic activity in 2015. Arts and culture supported 23,114 jobs throughout Connecticut. Nationally, this industry generated $166.3 billion in economic activity.
Yet many of our arts organizations are struggling today despite the yeoman’s work of hundreds of employees who labor diligently to bring the visual and performing arts to Connecticut’s residents.
I have been fortunate to exhibit around the state and see firsthand the professionalism and dedication of staff at the Ballarmine Museum of Fairfield University; the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, part of the University of New Haven; and currently with my shows “Eco-Visions” at the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum in Norwalk and “Paint the Beautiful World” at The Palace Theater in Stamford. These dedicated people work long hours and don’t receive large salaries. They are doing what they love and believe in and we benefit from their dedication to and passion for the arts.
I trust that Gov. Dannel Malloy and the State Legislature will make a good decision and provide significant funding for the arts in next year’s budget. But I maintain that what the arts in Connecticut need the most is the support of all local businesses.
When residents attend a cultural event, they eat in local restaurants, pay for parking and buy gifts and souvenirs. The Connecticut Arts Alliance calculates that each attendee spends more than $27 on related goods and services, not including the ticket cost.
Hundreds of businesses throughout the state also benefit from our robust tourism industry. Sixty-nine percent of visitors to Connecticut say that they come for arts and cultural offerings. The arts contribute significantly to a thriving economy.
In addition, research has shown that children who study music, drama or the visual arts are far more likely to do well in school, particularly with problem-solving. This is yet another good reason that our schools should make sure that the arts remain part of the curriculum to help tackle the achievement gap we have in Connecticut. Organizations like the Silvermine Arts Center are already providing art classes at public schools in Norwalk.
CEOs of large and small companies need to get involved. Here are three simple yet significant ways that companies or individuals can help:
• Encourage editors to create more articles on the importance of the arts in our lives. If a story appears, write a letter to the editor to start a dialogue or write an op-ed highlighting how the arts enrich everyone’s life.
• Give your employees an incentive to support the arts and celebrate those who do. Teach your child about charity and supporting the arts.
• Allocate money from your corporate foundation for the arts. Consider in-kind contributions or matching funds for your company.
If each of us chose just one arts organization to support with a donation, it would have a ripple effect in contributing to the overall economy of our state.
The Connecticut Arts Council Foundation was recently launched as a 401(c)(3) by the Connecticut Arts Council. Its mission is engendering support from individuals and corporations. The foundation will be supporting the arts — as we hope all Connecticut residents and businesses will. The arts, including music, drama, and visual arts, bring enrichment and joy to all of our lives.
Jan Dilenschneider is an artist and member of the Connecticut Arts Council. Her work is currently on display at the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum in Norwalk and the Palace Theatre in Stamford. She can be reached at email@example.com.