Vote for candidates who support the arts
As we prepare to create the future we wish to live in on Election Day Nov. 6, Connecticut voters should consider how their candidates view the arts and the creative sector of our state.
Having had a front row seat here in New London for 30 years, I have witnessed the unique power of the arts to affect every part of our private and public lives. Southeastern Connecticut is a region rich in visual, performing, and both spoken and written literary arts, with a legacy of creative R&D including American impressionism, modern dance, and the American theater. Whether we experience the arena headliner, the intimate play reading, the school recital, the summer outdoor concert, the sidewalk arts and craft festival, the town square acrobats, YouTube music videos, or the premiere of a locally-produced film on the giant screen of a movie palace, we all can see how the growth and quality of life of our region and our state are knit together by the arts.
Locally, few industries generate as much revenue for our cities and towns — and Connecticut as a whole — than arts events. In 2015, arts and cultural organizations in southeastern Connecticut had an economic impact of over $168 million and were responsible for over 4,000 jobs. Statewide, nonprofit arts organizations spurred nearly $800 million in economic activity and supported more than 23,000 full-time jobs. The nonprofit and commercial arts and cultural industry pumps $9 billion into Connecticut’s economy annually, generating more money than utilities and construction, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
However, today, Connecticut invests only $4 million per year in arts and culture. This is less than .002 percent of the state budget – and has decreased 60 percent over the last decade. On a per capita basis, Massachusetts and Rhode Island out-compete us by allocating twice as much as Connecticut.
We can do better for our families, our businesses, our children, and our future. In this election season, wise candidates will make supporting our creative economy a priority. They will recognize that the arts play a major role in stimulating economic growth, attracting and retaining residents, making cities and towns more vibrant, increasing tourism, protecting historic buildings and unique architecture, and preparing students with a well-rounded education that boosts innovation and creativity.
In response to the non-partisan Connecticut Arts Alliance’s Create the Vote CT awareness campaign, all the gubernatorial candidates expressed their support for integrating the arts sector into their policies and plans. Local district candidates are also being contacted to offer their answers to arts and arts education-related questions.
You can “Read What the Candidates Have To Say” on the Connecticut Arts Alliance website. You will see that regardless of party affiliation, they share a commitment to protecting, nurturing and utilizing the arts for a better Connecticut.
They have voted for the arts. Now it is our turn to vote on Nov. 6.
Steve Sigel is the executive director of the Garde Arts Center in New London.
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This was an “out of the box” use of funds and I recognize that some people are questioning the process because it is different. For that reason, we will have a town meeting vote.