What do you value? It seems like an easy question for most of us.
In running a nonprofit, I am constantly considering how I invest and spend donor and foundation money — checking that my spending aligns with Arts Alive!’s mission and vision and donor expectations. The Arts Alive! Mission is this: “Arts Alive! enhances quality of life by advancing arts & culture in the Monadnock region. The Monadnock Region will have a flourishing cultural community that values arts and culture and provides community support to facilitate success.”
Defining quality of life in terms of a community’s economic health is an easy and clear measurement. That is where Arts Alive! began 10 years ago, and it has driven a majority of our programmatic choices and messaging over the years.
Arts Alive! values a strong business community and local economy.
We invest in this by supporting networking programs that connect businesses to artists. Over the years we have hosted mixers, meet-ups and workshops and spoken at community and business gatherings in order to connect the business community with the arts.
In the past two years our model has begun to shift towards sponsoring and sitting on committees to bring arts markets and festivals to downtowns in our region. Why is it important to connect businesses to artists? Economic benefit.
In our founding years, we took leadership in coordinating a regional Arts & Economic Prosperity Study that shows nonprofit arts organizations and their audiences are an economic driver of our local community. In 2016, with only 30 percent of organizations in our region reporting, the study showed these organizations’ joint economic impact was $18.6 million. And every audience member that attends spends money at local shops, restaurants, gas stations, and some even at hotels.
This is why we developed the Discover Monadnock project in partnership with local chambers of commerce and the Monadnock Travel Council. It’s an online platform where tourists and locals can check the calendar for upcoming cultural events, and discover shops, restaurants, ice cream, swimming spots, hotels and other great assets and activities in the Monadnock Region.
The season we launched the website we had 7,000 unique visitors to the site each month and the Monadnock Region saw a 14 percent increase in tourism spending. Since then the state has reported continuous growth in restaurant and lodging income in this southwest corner of New Hampshire.
One measure of quality of life is that vibrancy of our local economy. We value investing in programs that support research, advocacy, building connections, and leveraging those connections to facilitate projects and programs that advance our local economy.
Arts Alive! values treating “arts businesses” as businesses.
Creative enterprises and occupations make up a huge piece of the economic pie in our region. In addition to the $18.6 million economic impact of arts and culture nonprofits, there is an additional $80 million in economic impact from for-profit creative businesses.
There is great economic potential in locally made, hand-made and creative products. Beyond dollars and cents, there are more than 2,500 independent creative solo-preneurs and another almost 3,000 individuals working in creative jobs at local businesses.
An important way we act on this value is that as often as possible we pay the artists who we work with, just like we pay a bookkeeper, landlord, printer or post office.
Arts Alive! partners with the Hannah Grimes Center to offer programming that emphasizes business skill building for these creative artists and entrepreneurs. Arts Alive! also offers coaching to individual artists and arts organizations who are seeking support, opportunities, connections to the local creative community and a sounding board for their next steps.
Some groups decide starting an arts nonprofit is the next step in the journey, and Arts Alive! is there to support that work with an arts incubation program. Arts Alive! takes care of the “boring stuff,” like bookkeeping and tax paperwork, while the project leaders get to do the “fun stuff” of designing the project and engaging the community in their inspiring ideas.
Over 10 years Arts Alive! has served more than 12 groups with this support. Some have gone on to become independent nonprofits, like Monadnock International Film Festival and Monadnock Art X Tech Makerspace. Some have developed a project or art installation, like the Magical History Tour, and will not incorporate as an independent business.
But when our mission says “quality of life,” and we only look at economic impacts, we are missing some of the key ways arts & culture bring value to our lives. Arts and culture bring us opportunities for expression, empathy, and joy, things we all need to flourish.
Arts Alive! values the role arts play in supporting our communities beyond the economics.
Many arts organizations ensure that audience members with lower income or other barriers have access to free events because participation in the arts is vital to our social connectedness as a community. Some artists even bring their work into hospitals and recovery centers — exposure to music can reduce the need for significant pain medication dosages, and exposure to art can significantly cut recovery time from procedures allowing patients to go home early.
Other artists work in schools. Bringing creative opportunities and performances to students can inspire a life-long passion for the arts, and also, students who engage in arts activities throughout elementary and high school have higher graduation rates and lower rates of risky drug and alcohol use.
Public art installations and events ensure our towns are vibrant and that everyone has access to expressions of our community’s cultural identity. It unifies us.
The value of the arts goes beyond what can be measured in economic terms. But economics play a big role in artists’ and cultural organizations’ ability to create and present work, which brings us to the last part of Arts Alive!’s vision — that we are creating a “community that values arts and culture and provides community support to facilitate success.”
Value arts and culture and facilitate success.
Do you believe in the buy local movement? Translate that to the arts. Do you recognize when you have the opportunity to buy local instead of spending your money on “big box” creative products? Attend a local concert, watch a movie at the local theater, purchase a book written by a local author, buy a local artist’s work.
The Ewing Arts Awards prove there is high-quality work and affordable work available in our region. Invest in your neighbors!
Vote for candidates and budgets that recognize the importance of investing in the arts. Arts funding in schools, nonprofit and public art funding from town governments, arts council funding at the state level — these are seen as an elitist luxury by some.
The arts are democratic, inclusive and necessary in so many ways. These mechanisms of funding ensure artists who are passionate about our communities are able to make a living engaging those communities.
Support nonprofit arts organizations with general fund donations, with sponsorships of special projects, with your time, with the resources you have — like space, hardware, software, a spare bedroom, a garage, a pop-up tent or your special skills.
For 10 years Arts Alive! has been empowering arts organizations, individuals and groups to bring greater value to our community. Artists and cultural institutions bring us together, empower our individual and communal identities and inspire us to innovate and move forward. As you read through this magazine, consider: How do we as a greater community reciprocate?