What Good Are The Arts?

What Good Are The Arts?

David Byrne | 04/03/2017

Main Profile:  Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1893, Oil, tempera, pastel and crayon on cardboard, 36″ x 28.9″

Investment in the arts doesn’t cost us money – it MAKES us money!


I just got back from a rally at City Hall. It was organized by city council member Jimmy Van Bramer to protest the proposed budget cuts to both publicly funded arts organizations (NEA, NEH and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting) and the library system. Lots of other council members, museum directors, actors, union representatives and many more were on hand. It was a beautiful spring day. I spoke very briefly, making the economic and social argument—that arts funding benefits the economy and creates jobs way in excess of the amount invested. It has the effect of lowering crime, raising property values and lowering child abuse! Really!

David Byrne speaking at the Rally to Save the Arts!, New York City Hall, April 3, 2017

The Trump administration and their Republican allies hope to eliminate funding for a number of federal arts organizations. This is a political move—it really doesn’t amount to much money—it’s a tiny part of the federal budget. The amount of federal funding is $741 million, which sounds like a lot, but is less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the United States’ annual federal spending, an amount supporters say is too small to make a difference in the budget if it was cut. On a budget pie chart it doesn’t even show up, it’s too small.

Q: What does that “investment” get us as a nation?—A: It gets multiplied more than 100 times= $135.2 BILLION.

In 2013, the production of arts and cultural goods added more than $704 billion to the U.S. economy. This amounts to 4.23% of GDP. The arts and cultural sector contribute more to the national economy than do the construction, agriculture, mining, utilities, and travel and tourism sectors. Continue reading at davidbyrne.com!

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What Good Are The Arts?