The Economic Value of Arts Education
March 20, 2014
In a recent submission to the Province of Ontario recommending re-instatement of the Arts Endowment Fund matching program, we make the argument that an investment in the arts is an investment in economic growth and job creation. Economic studies increasingly report on the positive economic activity resulting from arts and culture activity. As examples:
- 252,000 people in Ontario are directly employed in arts and culture
- In 2010, 73% of Ontario residents attended a performing arts event, spending an estimated $600 million
- Government tax revenue ( from all levels ) from arts and culture spending was approx. $1.7 billion
Economic Benefits of Arts Education
What isn’t as commonly reported are economic benefits arising from arts education activity. A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education comments on the ‘economic value’ of an arts education. The study (by the National Endowment for the Arts) is interesting as it seeks to follow the relationship of arts and culture industries to GDP ( a countries’ gross domestic product ). It would be interesting to unearth Canadian data, but the summary results suggest arts education is a path that leads to greater creativity and innovation in the work force.
- In the US, arts education added $76. Billion to the country’s GD
- Arts education as an ‘industry’ employed almost 18,000 people
- For every dollar spent by a consumer on arts education, an additional 56 cents is generated elsewhere in the US economy.
Education in dance, theatre, music and the visual arts stimulates curiosity, creativity, imagination and capacity for evaluation – skills highly prized in in the work force. An older report by the RAND Corporation ( Gifts of the Muse – 2004 ) comments on two benefits from arts participation. They were phrased as ‘intrinsic benefits’ which connect with ‘a distinctive type of pleasure and emotional stimulation’ for the participant, and ‘instrumental’ benefits, more output/quantitative oriented. The article uses the analogy of an arts festival, which creates local economic activity (instrumental) and social interactions within a community (intrinsic). Instrumental benefits have been more difficult to quantify and therefore have been reported on less, but now with this study, direct economic benefits can be articulated and measured.
It would be beneficial, if it could be universally accepted that arts education is integral to education at all levels. Being able to point to economic benefits may help promote arts education, at a time when it can be the first budget to be cut/cut back in challenging financial times. In the arts organizations we serve, many organizations direct endowment income towards arts education/arts outreach programs in their local communities. As well as instilling the ‘instrinsic benefits’ to children, youth and adults, these program employ artists. In smaller communities, arts education programs ( culture activity in general ) are important draws to professionals considering locating in a non-metropolitan community. As arts director recently stated to us – ‘The interest from the Arts Endowment Fund supports our arts education programs for students attending schools in Toronto’s priority and inner city neighbourhoods. Many of these children are new to Canada and many have, otherwise limited access to arts education experience with a talented professional artist.”
We believe strongly in arts education – it is good economics, our artists deserve it, and the kids deserve it.
For more information on the article, and the original RAND study ( it is long, consider reading the Summary section ):