The Arts, Culture & the Texas Economy: The Catalyst for Creativity and the Incubator for Progress

By Perryman, M. Ray | Baylor Business Review, Spring 2001 | Go to article overview

The Arts, Culture & the Texas Economy: The Catalyst for Creativity and the Incubator for Progress


Perryman, M. Ray, Baylor Business Review


The performing, visual, literary, and media arts (such as painting, music, newspapers, and poetry) are viewed by many as a pleasant appendage to, or diversion from, the real business of our daily lives. In reality they are much more. Cultural arts shape our attitudes, how we view ourselves, and how our society progresses. In fact, music can change not only our moods but also our history-- as in the case of Verdi's Va, pensiero that inspired the unification of Italy in the mid-19th century!

The legacy of all great civilizations is in large measure the art they leave behind, whether it is the elaborate tomb paintings of Ancient Egypt, the distinctive pre-Columbian figures of Latin America, the statuary from Greco-Roman cities, or the rows of terra cotta soldiers recently excavated in Xian, China.

We view Elizabethan life through Shakespeare's pen and look on the glory of the Hapsburgs in Vienna through the music of Schubert and Beethoven. It is little wonder that when the 100 most influential persons of the past millennium were named, roughly a quarter of them represented the cultural arts. In fact, the concentration of inventors, philosophers, scientists, and artistic practitioners within this group points to the defining nature of creativity in shaping our destiny. Furthermore, the arts are not only an essential part of our social structure, they are totally engrained in the EDUCATION and ECONOMY of Texas and the nation.

The Arts in Education

Substantial empirical evidence reveals that students with significant exposure to fine arts disciplines 1) perform much better on college entrance exams than their peers, 2) enjoy a higher acceptance rate to medical schools, and 3) have a markedly lower incidence of substance abuse. Similarly, the arts incontrovertibly create economic value by enhancing the quality of life for individuals, communities, and nations.

The Arls in the Economy

To characterize the commercial aspects of cultural arts, know that every time we pay a premium for the design components of clothing, vehicles, furniture, or any other product, we are purchasing the output of a cultural art(s). Each time we admire a well-crafted brochure, website, or advertisement, we observe the work of arts practitioners. And virtually all segments of the global economy have at least some element of their production tied to cultural activity.

The Arts as an Incubator

The nonprofit arts sector is the incubator for a vast part of cultural activity in the economy. For every $1 spent on those activities, more than $298 of cultural impact on the economy occurs, as well as $9.26 in State revenues. Supporting this point of origin for much of the innovation in the economy is tantamount to ensuring future prosperity.

While it is inherently impossible to quantify these effects, the nonprofit arts continue to keep our culture alive and to serve as a catalyst for future prosperity. Countless individuals benefit throughout their careers from exposure to the arts during their youth-opportunities typically engendered by nonprofit community efforts.

The arts contribute immeasurably to business prosperity. The creative process is essential to innovation and growth in a dynamic economy.

The Arts as a Laboratory

The arts are a "public good" with positive externalities, ensuring benefits to society far exceeding those captured in the marketplace. Without adequate public and philanthropic input, the cultural arts will be under-produced and under-- consumed. By their very nature, the arts will not experience the same level of productivity growth as other sectors. Thus, they will become a declining part of the economy in the absence of proactive efforts to the contrary. If they are allowed to fall relative to overall economic activity, the creative force necessary to sustain prosperity will ultimately be undermined.

The arts are essential to the long-term economic development initiatives of any community-particularly those in regions characterized by low incomes, inferior workforce skills, or a lack of diversification. …

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