The True Value of Arts in Communities

An important part of the Arts Extension Service’s work is to provide trainings and workshops for arts managers, artists, and public or private clients across the nation. Arts Extension Service Director, Dee Boyle-Clapp, has been busy this past spring and fall leading workshops for the Connecticut Office of the Arts. These evening or morning-long workshops and full day trainings serve as an introduction to the significant role the arts play in communities. Dee presented to Connecticut Artists, Arts Administrators, and City Planners on the value of the arts, both economic and how it serves a community and its people.

The first of the three workshops took place in Hartford, Connecticut and was delivered to artists who were interested in learning about their role in the creative economy and the impact their arts advocacy can make. The central idea for this workshop was for these artists and creatives to embrace not only their art making but the power that they and their work carries. The second presentation was for Arts Administrators explored these topics as well as where to find resources and information to strengthen their advocacy and create connections between the arts and society.

In both of these workshops, Dee shared information on funding streams for the arts. Those who attended learned about how much funding Connecticut receives from the NEA and state government and how that process works.” Dee shared real-life data with these groups about the actual economic impact the arts can bring to a community. The arts have the ability to serve as an economic powerhouse when given support from a community. The data showed that with $6 million funded from the State and Federal Government, the arts turned that into almost $798 million of economic activity. When compared with other states, the data also showed that the funding helped create 23,000 equivalent full-time jobs and that almost $72 million came back in local and State Government Revenue. What Dee highlighted for participants was that funding the arts serves as an investment, as when the arts are financially supported, they have the power to generate immense economic activity for a community.

Dee’s third presentation in Connecticut was a full day training in Waterford with City Planners and City Councilors and Dee presented alongside Meri Jenkins, retired Manager of the John and Abigail Adams Creative Economy Grants Program and Massachusetts Cultural Districts. This training asked the critical questions of “what is the role of the arts in developing your creative economy?”,“how can the arts be used to improve your communities financially and socially?” and “what is the difference between the creative economy and creative placemaking?” This training specifically focused on large regional arts organizations and teaching city planners and elected officials what the role of the arts is in a creative economy. Connecticut is at the start of creating their own cultural districts, so the presentation included information on how Massachusetts created its Cultural District program.

Dee and Meri spent a part of the day sharing with these government officials the role of the creative economy, and what a community can hope to accomplish with their own creative economy. One important point of discussion at the training was that a key element to developing these creative economies and creative placemaking is celebrating and building off what already exists in one’s community. Another crucial point that was discussed was understanding the role of the artist and looking at ways to support the artists in each community, including issues of preventing gentrification, zoning for the arts, and establishing practices to pay artists for their work. Dee compares the importance of paying the artist working to build and support a creative economy project to a doctor performing surgery, “we wouldn’t ask for the surgery to be free just because the doctor was gaining experience and their work was getting exposure.”

With over twenty years of experience, Dee’s workshops are full of real life examples and unique perspectives that provide new insight to those in attendance. Arts Extension Service leads workshops like these throughout the year. To learn more about how to hire AES for these trainings and workshops, or to customize your own,visit our website for more information and upcoming events.