Randy Cohen from Americans for the Arts was in Albuquerque two weeks ago and described an evening he'd had to the Albuquerque Economic Forum. He said he noticed a show that he wanted to attend and and went online to buy tickets. He and his wife drove to the show, stopping for dinner along the way. They parked their car. They both used the restrooms, then went to their seats. At that point he asked us to tally all the jobs he’d encountered.
He counted web designers, graphic designers, printers, gas station operators, waiters and bartenders, parking garage operators, and plumbers. He didn’t even count the people who worked at the theater.
All in all, he said, the arts are a significant economic engine in any city. In greater Albuquerque alone, their data shows that the arts are responsible for over 3,000 jobs, nearly as many people as Intel employs here.
Coincidentally, I had just returned from an Americans for the Arts event two days earlier. Their annual National Arts Marketing Project conference promotes best practices for arts marketers of all kinds. Interestingly, their speakers are not always from the arts.
The opening session was a talk from Eric Ryan, co-founder of Method cleaning products. He showed a funny video made jointly by Virgin Airlines and Method, reminding everyone that all those who fly on a plane are a (short-lived) community.
Another session paired an executive vice president of Wells Fargo together with the vice president of a major Charlotte ad agency in a discussion moderated by a former senior vice president of Bank of America. None of them prepared any remarks. They just talked.
One of the points that came through is that businesses today seek workers who can be creative, that problem-solving — a key business tool — is an exercise in creative thinking. Arts organizations have creativity in spades. They saw an obvious connection in the making. Ultimately, they all agreed, the arts have a lot to offer to businesses and those of us in the arts do not have to beg businesses for donations; we can be partners.
What began to emerge from all this input is that the arts contribute as much to the economics of a community as any business. But too often the arts aren’t treated that way. Often, even the artists and arts organizations don’t think of themselves that way. But, as Ray Cohen pointed out, arts organizations are job creators, too.
As I left Charlotte, I noticed the mural shown above installed near my gate at the airport. The leaders of Charlotte wanted to show the world that they were a cultured people. Gateways all over the world do much the same thing. Dinners honoring guests might feature musicians brought in to entertain. But how often do we also invite those musicians to dine at the same table?
As the Method/Virgin Airlines video states so simply, “We’re all in this together.”
(I’ll be sharing some ideas from the NAMP conference for arts marketers at 2pm on December 8. Check with me for details if you want to attend.)
Terry S. Davis