Thursday, July 09, 2009

Detroit Cultural Arts by Akindele Akinyemi

One industry that is never discussed in public here in Detroit is the Cultural Arts economy. Why are we so quiet on this issue I will never understand in a million years.

Nationally, the nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $166.2 billion in economic activity every year—$63.1 billion in spending by organizations and an additional $103.1 billion in event-related spending by their audiences.

The $166.2 billion in total economic activity has a significant national impact, generating the following:

  • 5.7 million full-time equivalent jobs
  • $104.2 billion in household income
  • $7.9 billion in local government tax revenues
  • $9.1 billion in state government tax revenues
  • $12.6 billion in federal income tax revenues
Nonprofit arts and culture organizations are valuable contributors to the business community. They are employers, producers, consumers, and key promoters of their cities and regions.

The arts and culture industry, unlike many industries, leverages a significant amount of event-related spending by its audiences. Attendance at arts events generates related
commerce for local businesses such as restaurants, parking garages, hotels, and retail stores.

Right here in Detroit I can see silver rights leaders coming together under the umbrella of cultural arts to recreate a new synergy in our city. However we need to do several things.

There should be an cultural arts program in every school in our city. I am not just talking about engaging our young people in rap music but also engaging them in the classical arts. We have more than enough young people who can sing opera if we teach them.

Also, young people who participate in the arts for at least three hours, three days a week for a year are: 4 times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, 3 times more likely to be elected to class office within their schools, and 4 times more likely to participate in a math and science fair? We must give our children every opportunity to succeed.

The key lesson here is that urban communities across Michigan that invest in the arts reap the additional benefits of jobs, economic growth, and a quality of life that positions those communities to compete in our 21st century creative economy.

Right now, cities around the world are competing to attract new businesses as well as our brightest young professionals. International studies show that the winners will be communities that offer an abundance of arts and culture opportunities. As the arts flourish, so will creativity and innovation—the fuel that drives our global economy.

It is our duty across Michigan, as urban conservatives, to reinvent urban cities that once struggled economically to help reinvent and rebuilding themselves by investing in art and culture. Both are proven catalysts for growth and economic prosperity. By creating cultural
hubs, nonprofit art businesses help cities define themselves, draw tourists, and attract investment.

Recently, Detroit Public Schools have cut funding to the historic Children's Museum in Midtown. Non-profit entities should be lined up to create a public-private partnership to save the museum from closing its doors.

The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History is operated by the City of Detroit. If we are serious about self-sufficiency in a 21st century global economy then how come the city government is paying the bills? We need to let go of city government's breastmilk and take some global initiatives in preserving the museum.

Remember the NCAA Final Four that took place this year in Downtown Detroit? Super Bowl XL in Downtown Detroit? The All-Star Game at Comerica Park? NCAA Sweet 16 and Elite 8 last year at Ford Field? All done by our cultural arts community.

My proposal is to take the cultural arts community into areas in Detroit like Warrendale, Brightmoor, North End, Barton-McFarland, Morningside and Southwest Detroit/Oakwood Heights (48217). A civilization is defined by its culture. Do we want to continue being a culture of corruption, deception, foul spirits and death? Is our culture defined by prison, failing education and ignorance?

Detroit must diversity its financial economy by green technologies, urban agriculture, small businesses, and cultural arts.

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