Saturday, November 29, 2014
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Arts could use dedicated source of funding

The latest data showing arts and culture spending in the Philadelphia region provides a multibillion-dollar boost to the local economy follows other recent surveys that prove supporting the arts is a sound public investment.

Arts could use dedicated source of funding

PAUL KOLNIK

The latest data showing arts and culture spending in the Philadelphia region provides a multibillion-dollar boost to the local economy follows other recent surveys that prove supporting the arts is a sound public investment.

With detailed findings to be unveiled Monday, the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance report should be the impetus for renewing the push toward more predictable funding for Philadelphia-area arts troupes, museums, parks, and the like. That has long been a dream.

Pittsburgh, Denver, and other metro areas have had regional funds in place for years, but the idea has yet to catch on elsewhere in Pennsylvania. Indeed, area cultural leaders in recent years have come away from Harrisburg’s bruising budget battles considering it a victory when state arts programs were level-funded.

But periodic surveys by the Cultural Alliance of spending by hundreds of arts organizations demonstrate that boosting the 10-15 percent of government aid that they receive would be smart — since it would generate solid economic gains.

Do you see any hope for dedicated arts funding in Pa. after decades of unsuccessful attempts?
No, will have to await a more robust economy
Yes, culture means billions to Phila. economy and would be a good investment
No, arts patrons should provide bulk of support
Yes, but only if cultural groups join forces with parks, historic and outdoors groups

Given the thousands of jobs in arts and culture, related employment and spending, and millions in state and local taxes, the estimated return of several dollars for every $1 of aid remains impressive.

Those returns, however, along with heroic efforts by arts groups to sustain audience attendance numbers despite the ailing economy, have yet to move the needle on a dedicated funding plan.

Clearly, a different strategy is needed. So it’s a hopeful sign that cultural leaders say they’re not going to be content with simply amassing the data to build their case for greater government support.

GPCA officials are in the early stages of assembling what they describe as a “quality of life coalition” across the state. Stakeholders will include not only the cultural sector, but also groups lobbying for everything from libraries to outdoor recreational pursuits.

The hope is that a broader coalition will make a difference in convincing state policymakers that increased support for these attractions makes sense beyond the obvious civic benefits.

As the corporate sponsor of the latest alliance report notes, a “thriving cultural community … plays an important economic role in helping to spur urban renewal, attract new businesses, draw tourism and spark innovation.”

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