Louise M Slaughter

The Importance of Art and Culture - Oct. 17, 2009

Louise M Slaughter
October 17, 2009— Niagara University, New York
Castellani Art Museum Gala
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Congresswoman Louise Slaughter gave a presentation on the importance of art at Niagara University's Castellani Art Museum's Gala.

Thank you, Niagara University and Castellani Art Museum- for your dedicated efforts to promote access and availability to arts for everyone in our community. Every year, Congress is called upon to define our nation’s priorities, and I am so grateful that all of you are here today to remind us of the important role that art and culture play in our work, our economy, and our lives.

The arts define our culture and instill unique character in the communities across our nation. Art transcends barriers of language, time, and generation, translating cultural differences, breathing life into history, and bridging experiences across cultures.

I am so happy to be here to recognize the important work of both Castellani Museum and Niagara University as stewards of the arts. The recent acquisition of such a collection of original Andy Warhol photographs illustrates yet again the museum’s continued efforts to shape the unique cultural landscape of Niagara Falls.

At the same time that art has bestowed intrinsic emotional, cultural and intellectual benefits to individuals and communities like ours across the country, the arts give back to our society in multitude ways.

As we all know, the arts equal jobs.

The arts support 5.7 million jobs nationwide, and in our district, there are over 1200 arts-related businesses employing nearly 16,000 people.

We succeeded in getting this message out during the debate on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act by securing fifty million dollars for the National Endowment for the Arts.

I am thankful to Chairman Dicks, Chairman Obey, Speaker Pelosi and my colleagues in leadership for supporting this important message: musicians, authors, educators, architects, designers and every other creative worker are like every other employee in our economy. They deserve just as much support in surviving this economic downturn as anyone else.

Yet we must continue to craft our message and spread the word.

The arts and culture are important economic assets. They create a hub of economic activity, attracting investments, generating tax revenues, and stimulating local economies through tourism and urban renewal.

That is why both the National Governor’s Association and the U.S. Conference of Mayors agree that investing in arts and culture-related industries provide important economic benefits to local and regional economies.

It is also no surprise that America’s overall nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $166.2 billion economic activity every year, generating $29.6 billion in government revenue.

Much of this activity would not be possible without grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. Last year, NEA awarded nearly $122 million of appropriated funds through more than 2,200 grants reaching all 435 congressional districts. This year, we are working to ensure that the House passed 170 million dollar funding level for both the NEA and NEH prevails in conference.

Because of the cultural and economic benefits of art and cultural programs, we have been willing to fight an uphill battle to increase NEA funding for the past several years. It is difficult for art and culture industries to live up to their fullest potential when they cannot predict the level of federal support to factor into their business plans.

But we’re a tenacious crowd, and we’ve faced these challenges and enjoyed some significant victories along the way.

Fiscal Year 2008 was a breakthrough for the arts when the NEA was funded at 144.7 million dollars- an increase of over 19 million dollars over Fiscal Year 2007, and the largest increase for the arts in 28 years.

And for Fiscal Year 2009, we secured another $10 million increase.

For Fiscal Year 2010, we are trying to secure an additional $15 million.

In addition to helping our workforce, artistic organizations and cities survive this economic downturn, we should use this time as an opportunity to push for greater investment in arts education to prepare our children for the future.

Employers today in America and abroad are looking for imaginative and vibrant young men and women to fill their rosters. Educating children early and continuously in the arts will prepare them for the work in today’s innovative and creative postindustrial society.

Ninety-six percent of corporate leaders surveyed recognized that creativity is essential to succeeding in the today’s workforce.

And a 2006 report from the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce found that the best employers are looking for the most creative and innovative people to fill their rosters.

Arts education also helps close the achievement gap, critical to providing every child in America the education they deserve.

A 2006 study by the Arts Education Partnership found that schools with large populations of students in economic poverty can begin transforming themselves into vibrant and successful centers of learning and community life when the arts are infused into curriculums and daily activities.

Last Year, Congress funded the Arts in Education program with 38.1 million dollars. Since it began in 2001, this program has resulted in approximately 160 awards to school districts in 180 Congressional Districts throughout the country.

This year, at a time when model programs supported by the Department are showing impressive results and the need for arts in education could not be greater, it is imperative that we fully fund these programs.

Making that transformation will greatly benefit the lives of the students at schools here in our community and across the country, expanding their minds and imaginations in new and exciting ways. And what’s more, it will give them a better chance of attaining their future goals.

Clearly, now more than ever we need to continue robust support for our nation’s creative industries and workforce. Supporting the millions of people employed in the creative industries as well as organizations, businesses and artistic institutions which contribute to local and regional economies is simply an imperative this Congress cannot cast aside.

This evening, I would like to ask that you continue to promote the message that arts are for everyone. They benefit every aspect of our society and culture, and enrich our lives in ways nothing else can.

You must also drive home the point that as we all know, the arts equal jobs. The creative industries are vital to our local, regional, and national economies.

Supporting the arts will help our economic recovery and funding arts education will prepare our children for success in our innovative, creative world economy.

I’ve felt the power of art personally all my life. I was a trained microbiologist who was the vocalist in a blues band back in Lexington, at the University of Kentucky and I’ve loved music ever since. Today, I stand before you as a legislator who wants to continue spreading the joy art gave me to children throughout America. I want to continue spreading its power, and its promise, from coast to coast.

I want to thank you again for all that you do to bring the arts to our community, and especially to our children. Our children deserve it, and their future – and ours- needs it.

Thank you very much.