Letters to the Editor

Arts are vital to the economy, society

According to Americans for the Arts, the nonprofit arts industry — which includes museums, theater and dance companies, performing arts centers, orchestras, arts councils and others — generates $22.3 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenues annually, a yield well beyond their collective $4 billion in arts allocations.

Because the National Endowment for the Arts supports artistic excellence and improves access to the arts by granting funds to nonprofit arts organizations, I call on our federal officials to support an increase in funding for the NEA beyond its 1993 funding level of $174 million. That figure equals $277 million in today’s dollars.

Our schools need more arts education. Schools, especially those struggling, can retain their best teachers by becoming incubators for creativity and innovation; places where students want to learn and teachers want to teach. Students with an education rich in the arts have better grade point averages, score better on standardized tests in reading and math, and have lower dropout rates — findings that cut across all socio-economic categories.

Congress and state education leaders should support strong arts education programs in order for local school leaders to include the arts in all disciplines in their curriculum.

Our rural communities contain some of the greatest cultural assets of our country. Rural economic development should be strengthened to help these communities promote the richness of their heritage and assist local artists with their entrepreneurship.

Across the country, the role of the arts as an economic engine is growing in acceptance and strength. All lawmakers should support funding and policies that would recognize the growth potential and direct benefits of encouraging cities and states to strategically invest in the arts in order to drive economic development.

Teo Castellanos, founder and artistic director, D-Projects Dance/Theater

Company, Miami