The Arts is Important Part of U.S. and Local Economy

Andre Bohren, classical pianist (and more), has performed in Thermopolis and presented artist residencies in the schools.

Recently, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and Public Media (public radio and television) have been targeted to be de-funded from the federal government. Some of our government officials and the public may not understand the not-for-profit world — how seed money provided by these agencies requires raising additional dollars — and how so much of the work to make the projects happen is actually donated by volunteers.

Kids get a taste of art activities during a local ArtStroll.

The NEA, NEH and Public Media are a small amount of the federal budget, yet their impact impacts the entire country:

  1. The arts and culture sectors account for $742 billion, or 4.2 percent, of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
  2. The arts and culture workforce includes more than two million full-time artists and nearly five million arts-related jobs.
  3. The role of the NEA is to make sure all Americans have access to the arts no matter where they live. NEA funding creates an environment for the arts to bloom and thrive.
  4. All 435 Congressional Districts benefit from NEA grants.
  5. Funds from the NEA act as a catalyst to leverage resources for key investments in communities across the nation.
  6.  An NEA grant stimulates giving from other sources. Every dollar invested directly by the NEA is matched by up to $9 of additional non-federal or private investment.
  7. The projects supported by the NEA (and by the other culture sector agencies) play a vital role in revitalizing communities.
  8. The NEA also supports our military service members through a military healing arts program.
  9. Involvement in the arts has been shown to improve critical thinking skills — not just in the arts but in areas such as science, math and technology — all critical to our economy and growth.

Okaidja teaches Hot Springs County school students dance steps from his native Ghana. Learning about other cultures is a critical component of developing respect for the traditions of others.

Recently, a story in the Casper Star-Tribune indicated that only four organizations in the state received support from the NEA. Readers may have gotten the idea that the NEA has little impact in our state. It is true that only four groups (of which Hot Springs Greater Learning Foundation is one) received funds through the NEA direct grants program. But 40% of the NEA budget funds state arts councils all across the country. These state arts councils re-grant that money to arts projects in their states.

The Wyoming Arts Council receives approximately $750,000 a year from the NEA. That money — plus additional funds from the Wyoming state legislature — goes out to support more than 200-plus projects in Wyoming. This funding supports projects in Wyoming communities of all sizes.

Learning traditional skills or pass them on to a new generation is part of the value of the Big Horn Basin Folk Festival.

In the case of HSGLF (as in many communities), the seed money from the Arts Council and the NEA is matched by HSGLF; and volunteers give literally thousands of hours to make projects happen — to create a more vibrant and sustainable rural community. In Hot Springs County, it has helped our small organization to:

  • support arts education projects in the schools.
  • bring in performing artists to help us create a dynamic and active community.
  • provide marketing support to reach broader audiences that help us support the local and regional economy.
  • support projects to improve skills of local artists and musicians.
  • provide educational opportunities to strengthen our local arts organization.

Local musicians jam during an ArtStroll with local businesses open on a Friday night.

Our thanks to all our Congressional leaders who signed a letter of support, asking that the NEA, NEH and Public Media be funded!

Ellen Sue Blakey

Hot Springs Greater Learning Foundation