Why we must keep investing in the arts

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“Arts and culture are essential components of a vibrant community.”

So begin the results of the study “How Boston and Other American Cities Support and Sustain the Arts,” released last January by the Boston Foundation. In releasing that report, the foundation’s chief executive officer, Paul Grogan, highlighted the interconnectedness of the economy and the arts: “It is no coincidence that cities and regions with thriving economies tend to have robust arts and cultural communities, as well,” the report stated.

These statements ring just as true for Cape Cod as they do for Boston. Our tourists, many of whom come from that city to escape the rigors of urban life, have countless opportunities to be entertained and inspired by the artistic offerings that abound on our 65-mile-long peninsula.

The Cape & Islands Workforce Investment Board estimates that Cape Cod has more than 400 creative entities supporting approximately 7,000 local jobs, 13 percent more than the national average. Many reap the rewards of cultural tourists, who, according to the Massachusetts Cultural Council, have higher levels of income and spend $62 more per day and $200 more per trip than other travelers.

In 2017, the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod is poised to not only support, but strengthen the arts and culture scene in our region.

We are doing so by providing fellowships to working artists on Cape Cod. Last year, we provided three fellowships, which nurtured the talents of a musician, a writer and a painter, allowing them to continue creating works that embody the spirit of this place we call home.

As the Cape’s schools are cutting enrichment programs due to budgetary constraints, the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod is offering opportunities for students to explore the arts; our annual Winter Art Exhibit is just one example of how we’re promoting the arts among young people.

Our annual grants program is another way we’re able to enrich the fabric of our community. Since 1988, we have given more than $1.5 million in funding to support the arts.

In December we awarded $25,000 in grants to 18 organizations throughout the region. These include the Barnstable Senior Center, to support its art therapy program for those with dementia; a touch-and-feel class aimed at blind and sight-impaired residents at Chip’s House in Centerville; and the Cape Conservatory’s Sing for Joy music class, which gives individuals living with Parkinson’s disease an outlet for healing.

These grants provide an insight into how arts are forming a bridge to the region’s health and human service sectors. Research shows tangible benefits to the arts well beyond the superficial. Americans for the Arts, a nonprofit organization focused on advancing the arts in the United States, notes that nearly half of the country’s health care institutions offer arts programs to patients, families and staff because they understand it can result in shorter hospital stays, better pain management, and less medication.

On the social level, the University of Pennsylvania has conducted research showing “that a high concentration of arts in a city leads to higher civic engagement, more social cohesion, higher child welfare and lower crime and poverty rates.”

Before our Pops by the Sea concert last year, conductor Keith Lockhart told us what the arts mean to him: “We are so obsessed with the ‘when’ and the ‘how much’ that the arts encourage us to look deeper beyond the easy answers and to tap into the creativity of the human spirit.”

Both as individuals and as a community, the arts make us stronger and more vibrant and allow us to grow. This is why we need to continue to invest in the arts on Cape Cod.

– Julie Wake is executive director and Rana Murphy is president of the board of directors of the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod in Hyannis.