When I chose creative writing focusing on poetry as my college major, my parents slipped into a mild depression. On the other hand, they were buoyed up by the fact that I chose to stay in school rather than devote myself full-time to my rock and roll band. It all worked out, and both skills, poetry and music, have stood me in good stead.
At Americans for the Arts, we believe that these skills learned through arts education develop well-rounded children who are prepared for employment in both the creative economy AND in the 21st century workforce.
For instance, if your friend’s child wants a job in the arts, her parents may panic (like mine did) from reading current media articles about the arts sector dwindling in size. But, I have good news. Today, if someone is looking for a job in the creative economy, they have a lot of options.
No niche industry, arts are a big business in this country. Our 2011 analysis of Dun and Bradstreet data reveals that 756,007 arts businesses exist across the nation and employ 2.99 million individuals. These are businesses that we participate in for enjoyment (such as seeing a movie, attending a concert, or reading a novel); engage in for business (architecture, design, and musical instrument manufacturing companies); and invest in to enrich community livability (such as museums, public art, performing arts centers).
Our Creative Industries reports demonstrate that arts-centric businesses are contributing significantly to local economies across the country—representing 4.14 percent of all businesses and 2.17 percent of all jobs in the United States. How do the locals stack up?
- In King County (Seattle), it’s 6.76 percent of all businesses and 2.89 percent of all employment.
- In Santa Fe County, it’s 9.44 percent of businesses and 3.9 percent of employment.
- In Burlington, VT, it’s 5.73 percent of businesses and 2.48 percent of employment.
This means that vibrant communities are rich in the arts, and arts education is a critical tool in fueling the workforce of these creative industries.
But let’s say your friend’s child just wants a job–in any field.
We know from Ready to Innovate’s conclusions that U.S. employers now consistently rate creativity as a top tier skill in the new workforce. Seventy-two percent of employers say creativity is of primary concern when they’re hiring—and eighty-five percent can’t find the creative applicants they seek.
Arts education can play a role in moving America’s school systems to more effectively meet the needs of a 21st century competitive workforce and help prepare a more globally aware citizenry.
The reality of life in the 21st century is that the skills associated with artistic practices — creative thinking, self-discipline, collaboration and innovation — are skills that are in great demand. In fact, in our rapidly changing global economy, the skills the arts teach may be mandatory for everyone’s success.
The National Center on Education and the Economy’s New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce projects that in 10 years, the prototypical U.S. industry will be engaged in “creative work” — research, development, marketing and sales, and global supply chain management. These areas depend on leadership rooted in creativity, imagination, and the arts.
Stanford University President John L. Hennessy noted that, “The arts can help us break out of traditional patterns of thinking and adopt fresh approaches to intellectual experiences. Discontinuous innovations require novel thinking and breakthroughs in how a particular problem or challenge is approached. I believe the arts offer an expanded tool set for learning and understanding that can enhance creative thinking skills.”
I still read and write poetry every day. I still enjoy making music. And I feel I use the arts skills I learned in areas such as communication, improvisation, idea generation, and much more.
So whether someone is interested in a career in the arts or not, it is in everyone’s best interest to support and demand arts education in our schools.
It plays a vital role in bolstering the creative workforce, generating economic development opportunities for our communities, and providing our country a great source of arts and cultural support.