On Feb. 15, a group of five Spokane arts advocates will fly to Olympia to participate in the 2005 Washington State Arts Day. Coordinated by the Washington State Arts Alliance, Arts Day is a gathering of arts advocates who meet with legislators about arts and cultural issues.
While Arts Day is a celebration of the state's arts, it is also a crucial event that can influence the contribution and funding for regional arts programs. In past years, Arts Day participants have helped secure funding for important local arts organizations like the Spokane Symphony, Spokane Civic Theater, the Spokane Arts School, the Spokane Arts Commission and Interplayers. This year's Arts Day goals include securing grant funding for the Washington State Arts Commission (which is re-granted to many Spokane arts organizations), art conservation funding for projects around the state and continued funding and support for regional arts education.
Recently, Americans for the Arts published Arts and Economic Prosperity: The Economic Impact of Nonprofit Arts Organizations and Their Audiences. This economic impact study provides compelling new evidence that nonprofit arts are a significant industry in the United States -- one that generates $134 billion in economic activity. In Spokane, the arts not only improve the quality of life but are also emerging as a potent force in our economic vitality. In 2002, arts in Spokane generated $54 million in indirect economic activity and an impressive $19 million in direct revenue. Annual Spokane audience counts rose to more than 1 million people, supported by a volunteer base of 4,500.
While it is difficult to measure the impact of something intangible like the arts, it is easy to notice that the arts movement in Spokane is finally fulfilling its function, which is simply to add a measure of interest and dimension to people's lives. This is accomplished almost in a subliminal way, inhabiting our community just as a spirit might inhabit an old mansion. And there is nothing in the world more desirable than a friendly ghost in the house to preserve a sense of the past, give hope for the future and, most of all, to keep you company at times when you need it the most.
The arts have been a constant influence in my life here. A year ago, I was appointed by the mayor as a Spokane Arts Commissioner to "promote and enhance the quality, accessibility and presence of the arts in Spokane." This appointment has provided me a way to give back to a community that has given so much to me. The arts lure me downtown on a cold night to view the latest gallery showing; the arts attract an educated and professional following that floods my workplace with highly qualified resumes; they have allowed me to build an enormous group of personal and professional contacts; and the arts have given me a sense of pride about living in Spokane.
We all experience arts and culture in one way or another. Many enjoy going to galleries to fuel their imagination; others would rather create art at a local university. Even those who claim not to be a supporter of the local arts community probably just enjoyed a movie starring an actor who got their start in a non-profit community theater. As city governments nationwide search for ways to tighten their budgets, too often the arts are being confused as a nonessential resource. And while times are economically difficult, the arts must remain a key player in boosting Spokane's economy, bringing life back to downtown areas, promoting tourism and actively recruiting the type of Spokane citizen whose excitement, pride and self-esteem is a valuable resource to our community.
Here's how you can get involved: Contact your legislators before Feb. 15 and tell them how important arts and culture are to Spokane's quality of life. Visit www1.leg.wa.gov/legislature to find out who the contact is for your district. This is your chance to underscore the importance of the arts in our community.
So next time you're trying to remember the last time you supported the arts, try instead to think of the last time the arts supported you. Chances are, you'll be surprised.
In addition to being an arts commissioner for the City of Spokane, Currie Corbin is the director of marketing for Oxyfresh Worldwide in Coeur d'Alene. Currie is a graduate of Cornell University and has lived in Spokane for the past four years.