Inside the Classics: The arts are important, but do they create jobs?

Over the weekend, a short Facebook note started to pop up repeatedly in my news feed. It wasn’t written by anyone I knew, but nearly everyone I do know who works in or around the arts business seemed to be reposting it. Having nothing better to do, I clicked through, and found one of the more eloquent, concise, and relevant defenses I’ve ever read of funding the arts during hard times.

The author is one Jeffrey E. Salzberg, a lighting designer from the Northeast US. When I contacted him to ask permission to republish his note, he agreed immediately, and even threw a viola joke my way for good measure. Here’s what he had to say:

Recently, I had dinner with some lovely people and the conversation turned, as it so often does these days, to politics and economics.  I mentioned the importance of arts funding, and one of my companions — an artist herself — said something like, “I care about arts funding, too, but jobs are more important.”


It’s time we stopped thinking of ourselves as charity cases.  Arts jobs are no less important just because we make theatre (or music, or sculptures, or ballets, or….) than they would be if we sold cars or built computers — in fact, they have even more impact, proportionally, on our local economies. The arts are huge consumers of materials, which  must be manufactured and transported and, of course, artists and other employees of arts organizations buy the same groceries, clothing, automobiles, and other goods as do those in other occupations.  People who attend arts events are likely to dine out before, and go to bars afterward.  In the United States, more people attend professional arts events than attend professional sports. I’ve seen estimates that every government dollar that goes to arts funding has between six and seven dollars  of economic impact.

I’m writing this in September of 2010.  In 7 weeks, we’ll be electing senators, members of Congress, legislators, and governors.  This is a time when our elected officials — and those who want to be our elected officials — are most likely to listen to us.  Ask…no, demand…that they tell you their positions on arts funding. You can post this note on your own Facebook profile or on your candidates’ walls by copying the URL and pasting it either as a link or as part of a comment.

Let your message be loud and let it be clear: “Arts funding is jobs funding.”

Jeffrey E Salzberg designs lighting for theatre, dance, and opera in the New York City area and also in the United States of America. His portfolio can be seen online at His work was the subject of a Rosco Labs online tutorial entitled, “Lighting Aerialists, Puppets and the Sahara Desert.” Jeff’s favorite stage direction is, “Freud picks up the telephone. It turns into a lobster.”

This post was written by Sam Bergman and originally published on Inside the Classics.

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