Study: the Arts are an Economic Driver in PA

The direct economic activity generated by nonprofit arts groups and their audiences adds up to more than $2.5-billion dollars in Pennsylvania, according to a new study by Americans for the Arts.  “We pay our taxes, we spend in our communities and we create jobs,” explains Jenny Hershour, managing director of Citizens for the Arts in Pennsylvania. 

The new study actually finds 81,000 full-time equivalent jobs and $360-million dollars being paid in taxes.  “For this current fiscal year the General Assembly approved a budget that included $8.179 million dollars for grants to nonprofit arts organizations,” Hershour says.  “If you compare that with $360-million that nonprofit arts organizations are generating for state and local governments, that’s a really good investment.” 

Arts supporters in the General Assembly will soon be spreading that message with the creation of a bipartisan, bicameral arts and culture caucus in Harrisburg.  Speaking at a news conference in the state Capitol rotunda, Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) called the arts an essential part of the fabric of Pennsylvania. 

“It is music to my ears,” Hershour told Radio PA when asked about the new caucus.

State Capitol Fountain

Honoring Pennsylvania through Poetry

The Keystone State is rich with both poets and inspiration.  “When you look at the landscape and the beauty of the state, you begin to realize how diverse she is,” explains former Perry County Poet Laureate Melanie Simms.  “We’ve got mountains, we’ve got rivers.  Aesthetically, it draws the artist’s eye.”  For Simms though, it’s Pennsylvania’s history that she finds most intriguing.

Simms is eager to honor Pennsylvania through poetry at an upcoming capitol event, which she hopes can bring a sense of unity and pride.  “We can do that reminding each other of our great heritage, and doing that through poetry.  I mean we’re going through some divisive times right now.” 

Simms’ poem titled “Sunbury” is just one of the works to be shared:SUNBURY

Organizers hope the event will inspire others to try their hand at poetry as well.  Bloomsburg University English professor Jerry Wemple has been helping students find their inner-poets for years, and he tells Radio PA that poetry is more accessible than many people think.  “Sometimes people are turned away because they’re looking for a secret meaning, but a lot of times it’s just right there.  It’s not a puzzle to unlock, it’s something to enjoy.” 

You can enjoy Pennsylvania-themed poetry on October 11th, in the State Capitol East Wing Rotunda, from 12 – 1:30pm.  The event is free and open to the public.


Arts Funding Dodges Significant Budget Cuts

Funded at $8.1-million dollars in the new state budget, the “Grants to the Arts” line item represents a tiny fraction of the $27.15-billion dollar spending plan.  But, supporters say that small investment brings back a huge return.  “If you include all arts related spending, about 62,000 full-time equivalent jobs are created annually,” says Jenny Hershour, managing director of Citizens for the Arts in Pennsylvania.  “It also generates economic activity around $2-billion dollars a year… so it’s an economic generator,” Hershour tells us.

While funding is still down slightly from last year’s $8.4-million dollar appropriation, it’s a vast improvement from the more than 70% cuts that House Republicans called for in their first budget counterproposal.  Hershour credits grassroots advocacy with preserving the funding:  “I think the General Assembly understands the importance of these very small grants that go to arts organizations, and the very large impact that it has on their constituents.”

First Lady Susan Corbett

First Lady Susan Corbett with Governor Tom Corbett

Pennsylvania’s First Lady Susan Corbett chairs the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.  She has served on the council since 1999.  When asked about arts funding on Radio PA’s monthly “Ask the Governor” program (prior to the final budget) Governor Tom Corbett quickly sided with his wife over the House Republican budget plan.  “There is a significant return on investment… in tourism dollars, in growing art in Pennsylvania; whether it be in the community, in the schools or wherever,” Corbett said. 

The arts grants are used for a variety of programs in all 67-counties.