Meshugass in Michigan!….

Pssst…paging Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA), you might not have heard this but the economy is in the “tank” right now, so using the economic impact of the arts to convince the governor to not eliminate arts funding might not be the best tactic! It might make the arts go the way of the Sphinx…wait!…in fact Sphinx is actually the way you should go…..

It’s amazing to me that in a business that outputs creativity and inspiration, that there is so little of both when dealing with a crisis, which in this case is potentially the elimination of all arts funding in Michigan.  In an article, this statement and singular argument is a perfect example of this lack of creativity:

Arts advocates vowed to fight the cuts and cast their argument in economic terms.

Arts and culture generate $2 billion of economic activity in Michigan, according to a 2005 report by Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. Arts council statistics show that the 2009 grants created 2,320 full-time jobs.

To be clear, that is an important point and potential job loss does need to be addressed, but in Michigan where the national spotlight is on the auto industry with the potential for literally millions of job losses, is the economic benefit of the arts the best and only argument to make to try to preserve state funding?  I fear no one will listen to this singular tack, the governor and the lawmakers need to hear a multifaceted approach with the priority being the tangible benefits the arts provide.

Firstly they (MCACA) must stop this advocating for themselves, and start advocating for those who are served by the arts.  Those who are employed in the arts in MI may be in the thousands, however those who are served by the arts are in the millions!  There are I’m sure countless stories of how the arts have improved quality of life and education, but there is one story that trumps any economic argument and goes beyond any reasonable doubt as to why the arts need support, and that is The Sphinx Organization.

Their vision:

We envision a world in which
classical music reflects cultural diversity
and plays a role in the everyday lives of youth.

Founded by Aaron P Dworkin their story and success in tackling cultural diversity and literally lifting people up from a life with a bleak future is nothing short of heroic.  It has brought international attention and admiration to the state and serves as an example of the true power the arts can bring to people’s lives.  In the article about the funding cuts, it lists The Sphinx Organization as one of the recipients of arts funding.  Now it may be a relatively small amount compared to some of the other organizations, but that’s not the point.  The point is, which argument will make the biggest impact:

  1. A bunch of lobbyists armed with reports, charts and statistics visits the capitol to argue for the economic impact of the arts
  2. The Sphinx Orchestra performs at the Capitol armed with stories of how lives were literally saved because of the arts (follow up by sending the reports, charts and statistics)

Being that energy is another hot button issue, argument 1 is akin to “drill baby drill”!  Argument 2 is for energy independence!  People respond to stories, true stories of overcoming adversity.  Developing a tangible link between arts funding, lifting people up and saving lives will resonate.  Balance sheets be dammed, when lives hang in the balance no deficits should ever be tolerated!

Forget save the arts, how about save the state with the arts!

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