What if that same amount also covered you annually for most other arts festivals, theater and dance performances, and art exhibits throughout the state? What if your annual 105 pennies were also the catalyst for a $314 million economic impact on Oklahoma?
If you divided the amount of state-appropriated funds given to the Oklahoma Arts Council last year by the population of Oklahoma, that’s roughly the sum each of us would be paying to support the hundreds of arts programs, festivals, performances, exhibits and offerings across the state each year.
So even if you skip “The Nutcracker” or the new sculpture exhibit at your local museum, your one dollar and change each year is at work entertaining, educating and enlightening your fellow Oklahomans and visitors to our state.
But when times are tough economically, the arts are often a target for budget hawks. And with neighboring states slashing funding and entire arts organizations, it’s necessary for organizations such as Oklahomans for the Arts to explain exactly how far your tax dollar is being stretched and what benefits (other than the obvious) are being derived from your tacit tax support.
Since 1965, when Gov. Henry Bellmon created it, the Oklahoma Arts Council has been providing grant support to community arts programs throughout the state. From Bethany to Broken Bow, Guthrie to Guymon, a full 92 percent of OAC’s state appropriations goes directly into grants and programs for these communities — strengthening their economies, revitalizing neighborhoods, improving education, and providing their citizens a vivid reminder that their community is a good place to live.
In recent years, here’s how funding for the arts impacts Oklahoma:
Economy: According to a 2010 study, nonprofit arts and cultural organizations have a $314.8 million impact on the state’s economy. The study showed the industry supports 10,156 full-time equivalent jobs, and generates more than $29 million in state and local government revenues.
Education: Other studies consistently demonstrate the arts’ impact on education and overall student achievement and arts education has been shown to increase performance in non-arts subjects like math and science. Additionally, kids who take arts education are more likely to stay in school and go on to college.
Quality of life: Communities that offer vibrant arts and cultural amenities are more likely to attract young professionals, retain young talent, appeal to businesses, and provide a setting where people want to live and raise families.
So even if you prefer professional basketball to professional ballet, I encourage you to do the math on funding the arts. I think you’ll agree Oklahomans get a pretty big bang for their buck .05.
Koch is chairwoman of the Oklahoma Arts Council and co-founder of Oklahomans for the Arts.