Closer than You Realize and Far Beyond the Elite, the Importance of Arts and Culture

“The decimation of federal support is the coup de grâce of a long campaign carefully crafted to mislead the public into believing that the arts are irrelevant to most Americans,” says a recent study by the National Center for Arts Research.

Retaining and growing federal support for arts and culture first requires shifting public perception to align with reality and taking back control of the rhetoric surrounding its connection to American life. The arts being termed “elitist” is an argument founded in anecdote or cherry-picked support. The arts being termed small-d “democratic” is the reality revealed to us through examination of the larger set of facts.

Arts and culture are not reserved for an elite part of the population. The study brings attention to the role of arts organizations owned by the public sector; the Philadelphia Museum of Art is a prime example of a municipally owned arts institution showing world renowned work and engaging community-led cultural practice.

"In many smaller communities, the performing arts center at the community college is the major cultural presenter. Nearly half—45 percent—of the nation’s 4,500 local arts agencies have public art programs that enliven communities with murals, paintings, sculptures, and statues," add the researchers.

There are also many artistic and cultural offerings provided by nonprofit organizations whose mission may not lie in the arts but that engage people in arts and cultural experiences, states the research.

For example, quoting surveys by The Joint Commission, the report states:

  • Nearly 50 percent of the nation’s hospitals have active arts programs for their
  • Libraries are home to rotating arts exhibitions.
  • Some professional theaters get their starts in church basements, and many communities boast music performance seasons that take place at faith-based institutions.
  • There are arts programs on military bases to help returning service members in their recovery from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

Read here the full study.

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