Inside Philanthropy

A blog on philanthropy and nonprofit news and issues. A publication of Philanthropy Journal.

September 15, 2008

Arts education needs investment

Supply of the arts is outpacing demand, a critical gap that arts advocates and investors need to help bridge.

The arts help drive the U.S. economy, and arts advocates have done a good job building arts program and access to them.

But they also have failed to invest enough in arts education to build an audience for the arts.

That is the conclusion of a new RAND study for the Wallace Foundation that urges policymakers in the arts and education to focus more on changing public policies to strengthen and expand arts education.

Connecting kids to the arts helps ensure they will become arts consumers as adults, creating the demand needed to help cultural life in America thrive, the study says.

National and state standards for the arts content that schools should teach are comprehensive, the study says, but too few students actually get that education because state, local and district policies fail to provide the resources or school time to teach the arts.

And over the last 20 years, the study says, state arts agencies have invested less than 10 percent of their grants in arts learning.

The study recommends that state arts agencies and policymakers survey arts education in their states, develop high-school graduation requirements for the arts, publicize exceptional arts-learning programs, and push for changes in state policy to increase the amount and breadth of arts-learning opportunities.

“For policy change to happen at the state level, the entire arts community needs to get behind it,” an author of the study says. “Arts educators can’t do it by themselves.”

A 2007 study by Americans for the Arts found nonprofit arts and culture fueled $166.2 billion in spending in the U.S. in 2005, generated $29.6 billion in annual federal, state and local tax revenue, and accounted for 5.7 million jobs.

In addition to enriching our culture, the arts clearly are big business.

But until arts advocates and investors focus more of their effort and resources on closing the gap between demand and supply, the arts will fall far short of their potential to transform civic society into a culture that is truly civil.


  • At 9:28 AM, Blogger said…

    I agree that many need to recognize the importance of investing in arts educations. It is such a sad trend that art and music educations is slowly disappearing from our schools due to funding, when clearly there is money available for such efforts.

  • At 2:29 PM, Anonymous Regina Mahone, foundation center said…

    Thanks for highlighting such an important issue, which can be applied across the sector. There are thousands of nonprofit organizations addressing major issues — from health risks to poor education and social issues. But what benefit are these great programs without an audience? Do you have any suggestions to increase the demand?

    This October, the Foundation Center will celebrate Funding for the Arts month. This month of special events aims to increase the number of arts organizations finding funding opportunities. As more and more arts education programs are cut due to budget constraints in schools K-12, there is an opportunity for these great nonprofit programs to supplement them.


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