Exposure to arts drives innovation, spurs economy, study finds

May 25, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Michigan is hurting its chances at economic recovery by slashing funding for the arts, according to a study by Michigan State University researchers.

The study found that arts and crafts activities – such as painting, dancing and filmmaking – are closely related to success of the scientists, engineers and other innovators who create new companies and inventions that stimulate the economy.

Yet during the past decade Michigan has cut funding for the arts by some 90 percent – from about $25 million in 2002 to $2.3 million this year. In Detroit, officials attempting to balance the budget have proposed large cuts to the city’s arts and cultural institutions.

“Politicians often strip funding for arts and cultural assets, assuming they are expendable ‘extras,’ but this may be a serious policy error based on false assumptions,” said Rex LaMore, lead researcher on the project and director of MSU’s Center of Community and Economic Development.

Due to a lack of formal research on the issue, researchers set out to find whether exposure to the arts influences innovation. They studied MSU Honors College graduates who earned a science or technology degree between 1990 and 1995.

According to the study, there was a close relationship between arts and crafts experiences and graduates who went on to produce patentable inventions and create new companies.

In addition, these graduates had more extensive arts and crafts skills than the average American, and also believed their innovative ability was stimulated by their arts and crafts knowledge. Other activities defined as arts and crafts include sculpting, woodwork, architecture, photography and many others.

Based on the findings, the researchers recommend that policymakers:

-- Recognize the importance of arts and crafts in supporting innovation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

-- Recognize that funding of arts and crafts is critical in supporting Michigan’s economic transformation.

-- Support research into the best ways to provide arts and crafts exposure.

John Bracey, executive director of the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, said he’s not aware of any other state agency taking a 90 percent cut in funding.

“Certainly a lot of that was driven by the economy,” Bracey said. “But if you look at that percentage you have to realize that something was happening beyond the economy – there was some kind of philosophical decision being made. And you have to conclude that the former administration didn’t see arts as a priority.”

Bracey said he’s encouraged that Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration has left his agency’s funding in place. “I think we’ve seen some signals that things are changing,” he said.

LaMore said more support of the arts could ultimately help stop Michigan’s “self-perpetuating cycle of unemployment and brain drain.”

“If Michigan is going to reinvent itself out of this economic crisis,” he said, “we must attend to the role of and crafts as generators of innovation.”

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User comments : 9

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John_chapter14_verse23
1 / 5 (2) May 25, 2011
Cut art funding 100%. Art is not a priority, neither are sports. We're worried about providing people with healthcare and the necessities of life and some still feel it their cause to promote arts and entertainment as though they're doing a service to society. Apparently others feel motivated to waste even more resources trying to justify that disposition.

What we do need perhaps is an effort to educate people on the difference between needs and wants. While I've not read the study it seems little more than a survey harvesting impressions. Perhaps creative people value and enjoy art more but that doesn't mean that art education is worth taking dollars from actual priorities.

Fostering creative and rational thinking should be an educational priority but the start of research into how to go about that shouldn't be from the standpoint of defending art.

John_chapter14_verse23
1 / 5 (2) May 25, 2011
I apologize for the harsh tone, I've just encountered to many arguments in defense of the vain and meaningless while a holocaust of hunger occurs every year. Our priorities are a problem.
John_chapter14_verse23
1 / 5 (2) May 25, 2011
The "edit" your comment link doesn't all the edit to submit. I will also note that I'm not immune to wasting time on entertainment and art and I've found some truly inspiring and certainly enjoyable. I just don't believe that changes the calculus of deciding between hospitals or museums.
Shakescene21
not rated yet May 25, 2011
This article tells us little about the study methodology, and presents no statistical results. If artists want to convince scientists, they need to do better.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (2) May 25, 2011
The USSR 'invested' heavily in the 'arts'.
Thingfish
5 / 5 (2) May 26, 2011
What a bunch of prunes,(the people who just commented). Sounds like a world filled with cinder block buildings, straight lines, and no windows. Here kids, dream on that!
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (2) May 26, 2011
What's more important for innovation is an economic climate where the state confiscates less wealth. Innovators can make profits and keep them and they can decide what to contribute to 'the arts' instead of the state.
WalterHawn
not rated yet May 26, 2011
It would be very nice to have a link to a more primary source. This press release, while doing a good job of provoking interest, hardly has enough real information to drive an opinion. Most press releases also include various sorts of contact information, often including a URL to the source material. The link to the home page of the MSU site is hardly adequate.
operaswain
not rated yet May 28, 2011
Please reference the study sponsored by AMEX at AmericanstheArts.org.

"Arts & Economic Prosperity III: The Economic Impact of Nonprofit Arts and Culture Organizations and Their Audiences documents the key role played by the nonprofit arts and culture industry in strengthening our nations economy. This study demonstrates that the nonprofit arts and culture industry is an economic driver in communitiesa growth industry that supports jobs, generates government revenue, and is the cornerstone of tourism."