Georgia’s Arts Funding Pathetic

Published in Savannah Morning News on July 18, 2018

Referring to the Editorial of July 10, I must disagree with the notion about Georgians paying close attention to national rankings, such as child and family well-being featured in the article.   

It seemed that few noticed the State of Georgia ranking last in per capita arts funding.  Georgia was 50 out of 50 when the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies announced in February that the state provided arts funding at $.18 per Georgian.  Since February, however, Kansas’ own funding decisions pushed Georgia to 49th position.  (Kansas also attempted to defund its entire state arts agency.)  For 2019, it is projected that the Georgia’s per capita is to drop to $.12. 

There is much news coverage about economic development, jobs, creative workforce, etc., and how Georgia is a top ten state for doing business.  This news all might be the case for many industries, but if you work in arts and culture, you might be scratching your head how all this might be true.  Or, if you are a not-for-profit arts and culture small business, then you are surely perplexed why things are so challenging with so much reported economic prosperity.  Indeed, a significant amount of attention has been on film and television production, but it seems Georgia’s homegrown arts and culture fabric has been muted.

For a point of reference, reported by the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the National Endowment for the Arts the arts and culture production contributed nearly $764 billion to the economy representing 4.2% of the GDP, supporting 4.9 million workers, and included both for-profit and not-for-profit enterprises.  The impact was more than agriculture, transportation, or warehousing.  For Georgia, this translated to $19.6 billion of economic impact, 3.9% of Georgia’s economy, and nearly 134 thousand workers.

Isn’t it time then for better public policy and funding for arts and culture?  I believe so.  Whether a sole arts entrepreneur or a major arts organization, both are small businesses and deserve the same attention, resources, and incentives as all other small businesses regardless of profit motive. 

On the one hand, tourists do not travel to Georgia to visit big box stores, manufacturing facilities, farms, or stay in a hotel room.  On the other hand, businesses do not relocate to Georgia solely because of the tax rates or incentives.  Both come to Georgia because of the activities, the events, the quality of life, and I am confident that the arts and culture industry helps to drive all of this.   

As for rankings, if Georgia could just increase its per capita arts funding to $.65, then, when looking at our Southern neighbors, we can at least beat out Louisiana.