EDITORIAL: Arts groups deserve support

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It shouldn’t be news to anyone who has been paying attention: Indianapolis has a thriving arts community.

Sure, we hear a lot about widely acclaimed institutions like the Indianapolis Museum of Art and perennial favorites like the IndyFringe Festival. And every year, hundreds of area residents show their support by attending the Start with Art season-kickoff lunch (coming up Aug. 30).

But new research from national advocacy group Americans for the Arts aims to prove that local arts organizations enrich us all, literally as well as figuratively.

Indianapolis was one of 182 communities studied as part of the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV project, which updated a survey last conducted in 2005. Results released last month show arts organizations and audiences in Marion County spent more than $384 million in 2010.

That’s not a bad return on a $1 million public investment.

City arts funding has remained at $1 million each year since 2009, and Mayor Greg Ballard’s 2013 budget proposal calls for the same level of support. The money is distributed to the Arts Council of Indianapolis, which awards grants.

The details included in the Economic Prosperity report help make the case for local support, said Arts Council chief Dave Lawrence. “These numbers just back up what we already know—how strong our arts community is, and how beneficial it is to our entire community,” he said.

Such self-serving studies seldom reveal surprises, but the results are nevertheless impressive: Indianapolis’ not-for-profit arts groups and their audiences support the equivalent of 13,136 full-time jobs, generating $318.5 million in household income and providing $42.5 million in tax revenue for state and local government.

And then there are the less tangible benefits: the energy that surrounds an event like IndyFringe, the pride we draw from an asset like IMA, and the simple pleasure that comes from having it all at our fingertips.

Americans for the Arts CEO Robert L. Lynch put it well in the report: “The arts inspire us, soothe us, provoke us, involve us and connect us. But they also create jobs and contribute to the economy.”

We are encouraged that city leaders seem to understand that, holding funding steady despite municipal belt-tightening. And as economic conditions improve, we hope the entire community—public and private—responds by ramping up its support of the arts. We could do so much better.

A sign of early progress: the Capital Improvement Board, which discontinued its arts grants several years ago amid its own financial woes, approved a 2013 budget that includes $300,000 in arts funding.

It’s a great step at an exciting time. With new leaders taking over some of central Indiana’s most-prestigious organizations, let’s celebrate what the arts have to offer—both culturally and financially—and commit to building an even more robust arts community in Indianapolis.•


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