Kentucky voices

Ky. Voices: The arts boost Lexington's quality of life, economy

March 22, 2013 

As LexArts kicks off its 2013 Fund for the Arts campaign, it is important to point out why art truly matters.

Certainly the arts enrich our cultural lives, as individuals and as families, and bring together so many of us in search of creative expression.

In addition to the obvious cultural benefits of the arts, it is equally vital that we understand that the arts contribute in very real terms to the vibrancy of our local economy.

Our entire community, adults and children alike, are beneficiaries of the programming and operating support of LexArts. As Lexington's united arts fund, LexArts operates to make art more accessible to everyone. We are all aware of the Philharmonic and the Lexington Children's Theatre. Many of us have also experienced the hugely popular Gallery Hops. These are a few of the programs that will resonate with large audiences.

However, you may not know that LexArts also provides many smaller grants that truly change lives. Over 300,000 a year attend staged productions that are in part underwritten by LexArts; and nearly half are children who pay no admission. What is important to remember is that so many of those children do not have art in their daily lives and will only have these experiences if we, as shareholders of our great city, share our time and resources.

What is often either underappreciated or unknown is the economic boost the arts make on our local economy. A study last year by Americans for the Arts, found that nonprofit arts and culture organizations generated $18.6 million in total economic activity in the urban county economy.

This spending — $8.1 million by non-profit art and culture organizations and an additional $10.4 million in event-related spending by their audiences — supports 709 full time jobs.

The arts also generate $17.1 million in household income to local residents and delivers $1.9 million in local and state government revenue.

In the last few years, LexArts has needed to adjust to accommodate for the historic challenges facing our economy. LexArts made appropriate programming changes to protect the funds available for grant-making. The true worth of the united arts fund is best measured in times of economic adversity. LexArts has proven a good and responsible steward while maintaining a high level of support to the local art organizations.

The arts are not only good for our city; they are good for business.

PNC sponsors "Pay What You Can" nights at the Downtown Arts Center so that ticket price is not a barrier to those who might otherwise miss a night of live theater. Our partnership with LexArts allows us to build a competitive advantage by enhancing the critical thinking and creativity of our employees, which then enables us to achieve our business goals of recruitment and retention.

In addition to the annual corporate gift, our employees have the option to make personal contributions at the workplace through payroll deduction. PNC has also taken advantage of the option to designate a financial gift to specific arts groups via Lexarts.

We encourage fellow corporate supporters of the arts and this fund to consider the full range of ways they can support this worthy cause because art truly matters.

John Gohmann is regional president of PNC bank.

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