Guest column: Arts and culture mean jobs for Michigan

By Jennifer Goulet/ArtServe Michigan 

ArtServe’s 2012 Creative State MI report undeniably revealed proven impacts of the nonprofit arts and cultural sector on Michigan’s economic vitality. This year’s data further defines the arts, culture and creative industries as a sector playing strategic roles in Michigan’s reinvention and one poised for more action.

As Michigan’s economy struggled to recover from the 2009 free-fall, creative jobs and businesses showed promising signs of growth. From 2010 to 2011, arts-related jobs increased 11 percent, while arts-related businesses grew 16 percent. Between 2006 and 2011, there was a 15 percent jump in arts-related jobs to 85,656 and an impressive 65 percent gain to 28,072 arts-related businesses.

Moreover, the report reveals that nonprofit arts and cultural groups generated more than $553 million in expenditures in 2010 – based on data from 346 of the more than 2,000 cultural groups statewide – nearly $194 million of which supported salaries for 22,335 jobs. The sector contributed more than $2 billion, or 16 percent of state tourism revenues – more than golf, boating/sailing, hunting/fishing and hiking/biking combined.

Are we paying enough attention to the contributing role of the creative economy in Michigan’s future? ArtServe believes there is untapped potential here and will release new research mid-year on Michigan’s private sector creative industries together with the Detroit Creative Corridor Center and Data Driven Detroit.

Sadly it’s no surprise that harsh economic realities are impacting Michigan school districts, with many schools cutting arts programs – decisions made despite extensive indicators detailing how the arts heighten academic achievement, equip students with skills in innovation and teamwork and boost motivation and attendance. The 2012 Michigan Arts Education Census revealed that at least 108,000 children have no access to the arts in their school. Without the arts in our schools, how can we foster the creative skills necessary to ensure a talented and innovative workforce for the future?

Here, arts and cultural institutions are meeting a critical need – in 2010, 2.7 million students benefitted from educational programs and events led by cultural organizations statewide. These groups hosted 26,515 youth and school visits and facilitated 1,135 arts programs filling this gap in our schools. Michigan’s cultural destinations attracted more than 15 million visits in 2010 reaching families and audiences of all ages with arts and cultural experiences.

Last year, the governor and Legislature enacted the first meaningful increase in state arts funding since 2001 with a $6.15 million appropriation to the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs. The Governor’s FY 2014 budget includes a $1 million state increase that, while offset by projected federal matching fund decreases, reflects that state leaders are gaining a clearer understanding of the sector’s importance. Armed with new data, ArtServe is advocating for an increased investment up to $10 million, aligned with growing evidence of the sector’s contributing economic value.

This investment provides needed program, operational and capital improvement funding for arts and cultural organizations, schools, municipalities and community groups statewide. Not just a “government handout,” it leverages other revenues as cultural nonprofits diversify their business models. Indeed, in 2010, our organizations generated 70 cents through earned income on every dollar raised – admissions, tickets, class fees, registrations or gift shop sales. Local, state and federal government support combined comprised only 5 percent of funding raised in 2010.

Before we had hard data to prove it, we knew investing in the arts was a smart move. Today, we can’t ignore the facts. The creative economy presents exciting possibilities for the future of Michigan and its communities. Are we setting a course, not only to sustain our creative assets but also to position them for accelerated growth and economic return?

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission.

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