By Steven Libman – President and CEO, Jacksonville Symphony
We are still in the midst of a global pandemic and the sheer magnitude of the lives affected by COVID-19 is hard to fathom.
What does all of this mean for the arts in general and your Jacksonville Symphony in particular? Thanks to the creation and implementation of a robust physically distanced safety policy, we were able to open in September and since then have performed for thousands of patrons—a wonderful accomplishment. As of December, the Jacksonville Symphony was one of only a handful of arts organizations still performing before a live audience. However, because we can only perform to 35 percent of our capacity, we will lose over $2 million in ticket sales this season, and that gap must be made up with extraordinary gifts.
Nationally, the pandemic has created a terrible situation for the cultural community. According to a report by the Brookings Institution, America’s arts and creative industries have lost $150 billion (yes billion!) in sales and 2.7 million jobs have been lost through July. According to Americans for the Arts, the nonprofit arts sector has lost $14.6 billion, and 99percent of producing and presenting organizations have had to cancel events. 65 percent of nonprofit arts organizations have had to lay off or reduce payroll.
So, why support the arts now? From a purely economic standpoint, the arts generate huge returns because not only do people buy tickets, but they go to restaurants, pay for parking, shop, and stay in hotels when they attend arts events. Let’s pretend we are in a macroeconomics course…ready…here we go. The nation’s arts and culture sector is an $878 billion industry that supports 5.1 million jobs. That is equal to 4.5 percent of the nation’s GDP—and here’s the kicker—that’s greater than sectors like agriculture, transportation, and tourism!
So, now we understand that it’s smart economic policy to support the arts. But the arts are equally, if not more, important for other reasons.
The arts bring communities together, celebrate life, bring joy, and improve academic performance. Experts agree that the arts also spark creativity and imagination, which is crucial if America is going to compete in the global market. The arts also improve healthcare—50 percent of America’s hospitals provide arts programming that results in shorter hospital stays, better pain management, and improved overall health.
Finally, it has been proven time and time again that exposure to and participation in the arts is very beneficial to veterans and active members of the military. To quote Americans for the Arts, “The arts heal the mental, physical and moral injuries of war for military service members and veterans, who rank the creative arts therapies in the top four (out of 40) interventions and treatments…”
The Jacksonville community has been very supportive of the symphony during this very challenging time, and I encourage everyone to donate to those arts organizations that bring joy to your life and have helped sustain you—before and during the current pandemic.