I was happy to see the editorial “Handsome is as handsome does” from long-time musician and arts advocate Arthur Brooks in the Wall Street Journal on Nov 26. Brooks, also an accomplished social scientist and president of American Enterprise Institute, cites studies, cites studies showing how increased generosity is good for one’s health, well-being, and attractiveness. He cheerfully encourages readers to give generously so they might reap those rewards for themselves.
It turns out that Brooks missed one other benefit of increased generosity: it’s good for the artistic instinct and the progress of the arts. There is a strong connection between the vitality of the arts and private support of all charitable causes that has persisted over many years. Here’s some interesting data about that connection.
Last August, Americans for the Arts released the 2013 National Arts Index report, our fourth annual measure of vitality of arts and culture in the U.S. The report spanned 2000 through 2011. Co-author Randy Cohen and I calculate the Index score from 78 indicators of attendance, participation, consumption, investment, returns, volunteering, performances, compositions, imports and exports, government funding at all levels, numbers of artists and more. The Index shows how dynamic those years were for the arts.
And not only the arts … we experienced recessions, booms, crises, recoveries, wars, political changes, technological advances, demographic shifts, new social movements, and of course, changes in the arts. Intuition and experience suggest how that some of those dynamic forces – mostly macroeconomic – are positively linked to the arts: GDP, employment, stock market, population, and income. Some behavior and attitude patterns are arts-friendly: charitable giving, consumer confidence, leisure participation. Each of these forces (and others) has its own record of growth and decline in recent years. How closely do the arts track these other forces? Read the rest of this entry »