South Florida Sun-Sentinel
September 25, 2010|By Dara Levan and Jarett Levan

As the current economic climate continues to take its toll on South Florida’s art and cultural organizations and venues, it’s more important than ever that residents rally to support these local treasures. The positive impact of the arts on our economy, our communities and our youth is tremendous.

From an economic standpoint, the arts are a major attraction for both South Florida residents and visitors and are an important source of employment and tax revenue for our communities.

Broward County, for example, has more than 5,000 arts-related businesses that employ almost 22,000 people. Patrons of the arts buy tickets to our museums, theaters and galleries, dine in our restaurants, sleep in our hotels, and shop in our malls. Cultural and artistic venues also add to the diversity of attractions that we can offer visitors and help make us an attractive vacation destination.

In Broward County, non-profit arts organizations generate over $150 million in total economic activity annually, with almost $90 million benefiting local restaurants, hotels, retailers, parking garages, and countless other businesses. There is also a significant increase in spending from “cultural tourists,” compared to tourists who don’t attend an arts event.

A thriving arts and cultural scene also contributes to a better quality of life in our communities, attracts new residents, and brings more businesses to the area, all of which strengthen the local economy.

As parents, we also understand the equally significant impact that the arts have on the positive social, emotional and cognitive development of children. Cutting funding for cultural and arts education is clearly detrimental to future generations. But as more and more school boards across Florida, and the country, face pressure to cut budgets, the need to maintain area art and cultural venues becomes even more pressing as they may soon be the only places where our youth can participate in the visual and performing arts.

As South Florida residents, we each share the burden of ensuring the survival of our beloved cultural institutions for our children, our communities and our local economy. We must do our part to support the arts where we live, work and raise our families. Here are some ways that each of us can make a positive difference:

Volunteer to serve on an arts organization board or usher for local performances.

Support your favorite arts organization by becoming a member or subscriber, sponsoring an event or making a charitable donation.

Buy local art for gifts to friends and family.

Purchase tickets to area performances and give them as gifts.

Encourage your workplace to sponsor an arts organization or event.

Work to elect leaders who support arts and culture and understand the importance of creating a vibrant community.

Write an editorial about the value of arts education to your community.

Join an arts advocacy organization, such as the Arts Action Alliance of Broward or Funding Arts Broward (FAB!).

Understandably, difficult decisions are being made by our County Commissioners about where to invest and where to cut. But when arts funding is reduced, it undermines an industry that is a cornerstone of economic, communal and childhood development. Your support for the arts is a sound investment — an investment that will provide significant returns in the form of stabilized and revitalized communities, a better quality of life, and an educational system that engages our children and prepares them for the future.