Guest Commentary: The arts; who cares?

You should and here’s why. Supporting the arts makes sense … dollars and cents!

For every $1 spent supporting the arts, the City of Philadelphia determined $4 of economic activity was generated. Then Michigan Governor John Engle’s administration found that for each dollar invested in Michigan’s Council of the Arts and Cultural Affairs, $10 of direct in-state spending resulted. Annually, the New York Erie County Commissioners determine the economic value of the arts and in 2009 found that for every $1 invested in the arts, a community had a $9 return.

Nationwide research done by the organization Americans for the Arts found that when a community attracts cultural tourists, non-local arts events attendees spend twice as much as their local counterparts not including ticket purchases. ($40.19 vs. $19.53) They said “Whether serving the local community or out-of-town visitors, a vibrant arts and culture industry helps local businesses thrive.”

I’ll bet you didn’t know that Collier County is one of the richest cultural areas in America for its size with over 100 art galleries, museums of art, live theater, educational opportunities plus dozens of musical venues to choose from including the highly rated Naples Philharmonic. These organizations employ hundreds of people who live and work in our neighborhoods and are supported by an even larger number of volunteers also dedicated to elevating the cultural capacity of Collier County cities including Marco Island.

As a Marco Island business person, I understand the importance of recognizing opportunities to strengthen our business and residential community. As I often say, Marco Island is at the end of a dead end road. No one drives through Marco Island on their way to someplace else. They come here for a reason and more and more that reason is to experience the growing cultural phenomenon of Marco Island as the Community of the Arts.

It is our responsibility to cultivate any and all Island resources to expand the “attraction” element of our Island. There is no one thing that will increase the value or appeal of Marco Island to residents, visitors, snowbirds or Eurobirds. It is a series of features like water, boating, fishing, beaches, parks and the arts that attracts people to our hotels, restaurants, banks, realty offices, grocery and clothing stores and other retail businesses.

We are on an island of small business owners struggling to find ways to compete and survive. They need and deserve every break they can get. One of our greatest untapped resources that can benefit Marco Island’s economy is our arts community. Music, theatre, dance and the visual arts create a social and cultural fabric binding our residential and commercial interests together. Attracting more potential customers through the arts is a win-win for everyone.

What is art? I Googled the question and got 1.3 billion results in only .18 seconds. I guess even Google doesn’t know how to define art. Are we in the same situation as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart in 1964 who famously said he could not define pornography then offered “but I know it when I see it.”

Do we know art when we see it or do we apply our own personal standards? I know I do because I believe art is different things to different people…not one safe reliable “thing.” Occasionally, art asks something of us we are not used to giving. To some, art is beauty while to others it is education and to others it is a source of pleasure or revulsion or risk. Or maybe, art is all of those things.

If there is one thing I know and believe about art, it is the arts mean business for everyone. In Marco Island’s own backyard, the quality of music, dance, theater, paint, sculpting, and photography is reaching levels only dreamed about 10 years ago. The arts on Marco Island has come out of the closet creating new and innovative ways of introducing us to one of our most valuable assets.

For example, the City of Marco Island’s Arts Advisory Committee has taken a major step forward in bringing together all recognized Island arts organizations by creating Arts Afire, a weeklong festival of fine art, music, dance and theatre commencing Saturday, March 12th. For the very first time, artists are banding together for our benefit plus out of area patrons who will visit Marco Island to experience this unique and exciting event. Arts Afire unites our artists with our community in an unprecedented nine day extravaganza of cultural happenings concluding with the Arts Afire “Afterglow Gala” celebratory dinner dance at the Island Country Club the evening of Sunday, March 20th.

During the Gala, magnificent glass sculpture Flame Art awards will be presented to winners nominated in a number of categories including Cultural Leadership, Artist Achievement, Public/Private Business, Emerging Artist and Arts in Education.

Just like the inaugural Marco Town Hall Speaker Series event on Feb. 25, Arts Afire brings a new and refreshing high quality cultural happening to our island enhancing our quality of life while enriching our business owners. Every Marco Island business and resident benefits culturally and financially when a visionary group like those on the Arts Advisory Committee introduce us to innovative, creative and projects like Arts Afire. Iberia Bank, as a proud sponsor urges everyone to go to the website www.marcoislandartsafire.com for more information then purchase your tickets to the Afterglow Gala.

The arts. Who cares? Now you do.

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Comments » 4

blondie writes:

Please support Marco's "Arts Afire. There is something featured for everybody. Come see for yourself. You'll be glad you did.

RayPray writes:

"For every $1 spent supporting the arts...$4 of economic activity was generated."

In fact, this economic calculus was first proclaimed by Vincent van Gogh himself, just before he cut off his ear!!

"Please support Marco's "Arts Afire."

>>> How can I express those uncountable quasi-volcanic paroxysms of incandescent ardor I experience each time I contemplate the 'Arts Afire' economic initiative!!!

...promising, as it does, such exciting treats as--

---The Garden Club: Old ladies planting bulbs
---the Shell Club: Old ladies painting dead clams
---MI Strummers: Shiny-legged old guys playing the same 3 stale tunes over and over again
---A cooking class

....

ajm3s writes:

in response to RayPray:

"For every $1 spent supporting the arts...$4 of economic activity was generated."

In fact, this economic calculus was first proclaimed by Vincent van Gogh himself, just before he cut off his ear!!

"Please support Marco's "Arts Afire."

>>> How can I express those uncountable quasi-volcanic paroxysms of incandescent ardor I experience each time I contemplate the 'Arts Afire' economic initiative!!!

...promising, as it does, such exciting treats as--

---The Garden Club: Old ladies planting bulbs
---the Shell Club: Old ladies painting dead clams
---MI Strummers: Shiny-legged old guys playing the same 3 stale tunes over and over again
---A cooking class

....

You focused on the same quote, but your response is so funny, I almost forgot my question on subsidization of economic activity.

I will ask simply, why do we wish to promote a specific economic activity for specific vendors, with common taxpayer monies, of which some taxpayers would not spend a dime to decorate their own homes or engage in such artistic activities.

I am not attempting to whitewash this issue, but why must the government aid and assist in decorating my home? It may sound like a good thing, and go for a great cause, and make lots of money for artists and businesses. But if we have businesses selling goods or people engaged in certain artistic endeavors, why do we need to support them with public monies?

I will make the case, that subsidization of the arts leads to reducing creativity, if government monies will be doled out from a committee, rather than from a patron. Last time I checked, the number of patrons far exceed the number of members on a committee to control what will be supported.

Did I paint a false impression? Or am I just being creative without a subsidy?

RayPray writes:

"subsidization of the arts leads to reducing creativity, if government monies will be doled out from a committee, rather than from a patron."

This is a good point, but debatable. Many European democracies pour lots of $$$ into ballet and opera, with the result being first class productions.

However, while European taxpayers are footing the not inconsiderable bill, I get to enjoy this stuff almost free, via usenet video and music downloads.

My conviction, though, is that no democracy should subsidize anything labeled "arts" where not all taxpayers have any interest.

In terms of money, though, the arts is small potatoes compared with how much tax dollars and subsidies is dumped into sports. Most college teams run at a loss. And super-deluxe pro team stadia.

Even worse is having to listen to the specious justifications for this squandering from the local politicians, who are cheaply suborned by team honchos by a couple fistfuls of free tickets.

All economic studies show the putative economic return to the local economy from subsidizing sky-boxes for $millionaires is a chimera.

Apropos of the easygoing -- even comatose -- nature of Marco detonations of creativity, this "Arts Afire" program, with its various quasi- senescent participants, is almost too easy to lampoon.

Maybe this brave initiative can be explained by the fact that, if I recall, the woman hired to be the new Art League grand poobah has a degree, not in art, but in marketing.....

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