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The Arts Turn Political on National Arts Advocacy Day

Art is more than decoration; it is an industry that supports the economy and education system in the United States.

That is the message arts leaders from Pittsburgh and across the nation are delivering to Capitol Hill today for the 27th National Arts Advocacy Day.

“It’s a day where representatives and delegates from 45 states come together to be briefed on critical issues in the arts: funding, charitable tax deduction, arts education policy, critical issues that impact our daily lives,” Jen Saffron, the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council (GPAC) Director of Communication, said.  “And we meet directly with our senators and congress people to ask them to support these key issues.”

Saffron said many people do not realize that 40 percent of the money coming from the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) is given to the states, not individual organizations.

The 85 organizations asked members of congress to support a $155 million allocation for the NEA and a $30 million allocation towards arts education policy.

Saffron said the arts benefit the education of children from all socioeconomic backgrounds and can help the country’s “fundamentally broken” education system.

“When we take a look at the fact that people who have engaged in the arts in primary grades have higher test scores, they have higher GPAs, they’re less likely to drop out of school and this is data taken from across the socioeconomic spectrum,” Saffron said.  “It behooves us all to support a strong policy for arts education.”

The organizations also want to protect provisions in place that encourage charitable giving to the arts.

David Pankratz, GPAC Research and Policy Director, said people need reminded that the arts depend on individual giving.

“Actually government funding is not that large of a portion of the funds that run our arts and arts education organizations,” Pankratz said. “It’s significant, it’s important, but [the arts] really depend on charitable giving.”

Saffron said events like this are important because arts not only enhance lives visually, but also economically.

She said the arts represent 3.25 percent of the gross domestic product, which is more than tourism and rivals construction.

“When we recognize the actual impact of the arts, for example in southwestern Pennsylvania that four out of five jobs needed from arts and culture are not in arts and culture,” Saffron said.  “The arts and culture sector is creating mortgage paying jobs in other sectors.”

Jess is from Elizabeth Borough, PA and is a junior at Duquesne University with a double major in journalism and public relations. She was named as a fellow in the WESA newsroom in May 2013.