‘Tis the season for giving and at the Greater Hartford Arts Council, we talk a lot about giving to local arts organizations. After all, as a United Arts fundraiser, giving is at the core of who we are. When you make a gift to the Arts Council, your contributions support more than 120 arts, cultural, and heritage organizations in the Greater Hartford area from dance classes at the Hartford City Ballet and Ballet Theatre Company to the plays at Hartbeat Ensemble and TheaterWorks, as well as numerous events that have become a part of Hartford’s identity, such as the Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz. But despite its cultural relevance, the arts are sometimes overlooked when it comes to funding. Here are five reasons why the arts matter for yourself and your region:
1. Arts improve health and wellness
Whether it’s taking a walk through a museum, doodling, or art therapy treatments, the arts can dramatically reduce anxiety, depression, stress, and pain, while increasing attentiveness and, yes, even happiness. Elderly patients suffering from dementia report feeling a renewed sense of purpose and meaning during and after art therapy treatment, with improvement in cognitive functioning. Merely looking at a painting sparks the regions of the brain associated with memory and emotion, and both men and women report higher satisfaction when actively engaging in the arts.
2. The arts enhance academic performance
When states cut funding to schools, art departments are almost always the first to get eliminated. However, multiple research studies show that an arts-focused education is positively correlated with higher performance in reading and math, lower dropout rates, and higher scores on standardized tests. The enhanced affects of the arts on cognitive functioning don’t stop at the classroom; creativity – whether it’s singing, dancing, or painting – is linked to increased innovation. For example, Nobel laureates in the sciences are more engaged in the arts than average scientists. Meanwhile, fine arts and design graduates will be glad to know that, contrary to popular thought, an arts degree can lead to a lucrative career.
3. The arts foster community
Hartford cultural traditions such as the Taste of the Caribbean & Jerk Festival and the Greater Hartford Saint Patrick’s Day Parade are just a couple of the events the Arts Council helps fund to celebrate diversity and heritage. These events bring local residents together, draw tourists seeking authentic cultural experiences, and help strengthen urban identity. As a result, arts and heritage events generate civic engagement and social cohesion needed for income equality and child welfare.
4. Art drives the economy
Whether it’s a riveting musical performance at the Bushnell or a city-wide exhibition, the arts have a ripple effect on local businesses by drawing more tourists and visitors to the area. According to the American Alliance of Museums, museums contribute over $21 billion to the U.S. economy. In this way, the arts are a public good, benefiting the community and creating more local engagement whether it’s eating at a restaurant before or after an event, or purchasing clothing and accessories from an area boutique. More importantly, the spending by arts and cultural organizations and their audience generates more jobs and government revenue to the region.
5. Arts breaks increase employee engagement
When we think of the arts we usually imagine an after-hours performance or a weekend stroll through a museum, but they can also be an integral part of your 9-to-5. Arts breaks are part of the Arts Council’s workplace giving campaigns where we bring creative activities directly to your office to relieve stress, provide inspiration, and promote team-building. Activities range from painting your own Jackson Pollock-inspired piece and designing scratch post cards to enjoying a musical performance over lunch. Arts breaks are known to help improve productivity especially in stressful environments where breaks are necessary for rejuvenating and creative problem solving.
The list continues but I’ll turn it over to you. What are some reasons you give to the arts? Let us know in the comments. Join us on Twitter and Instagram on December 1 for #GivingTuesday to share why you #SupportTheArts.