As an English and Creative Writing major, I have gotten used to people questioning my decisions and how they will influence my future. Nine times out of ten, the first question I get after sharing my course of study with people is, ‘What are you going to do with that?’ in a nice way, of course. Well, while it may not have as many obvious career paths like nursing or engineering, in a way, English, Creative Writing, and other art-based majors are more of an investment than other majors because not only do you get an education, you spend a small portion of your one life studying something you care about. Does that stop me from worrying about my future? No. But a recent article I discovered on philly.com has begun to make me feel better not only about my studies, but about the state of culture in The City of Brotherly Love.
On September 25, 2012, an article written by Inquirer Culture Writer, Stephan Salisbury appeared on philly.com entitled “Arts in Phila. Economy: A pretty picture.” While context clues give the impression that the arts are a positive influence on the Philadelphia region, I would not have suspected the impact was so great. According to Salisbury, who received his facts from a report done by the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance entitled “Arts, Culture & Economic Prosperity in Greater Philadelphia,” organizations that focus on arts and culture in the Philadelphia region have an incredible impact on the region’s economy and are included among the country’s “most productive in creating jobs and stirring up economic activity.” Impressive isn’t it?
I know what you are thinking, “that’s swell, but where are the facts?” Salisbury wastes no time in providing all of the necessary information to prove the weight of his statement by explaining that culture in the region produces almost “$170 million in state and local taxes annually, and supports 44,000 jobs within the city and its four suburban Pennsylvania counties.” Salisbury goes on show that in employment alone, “culture in the first-ranked Philadelphia region supports 43,700 jobs” approximately 14,600 more than “Greater Houston, number two [with] 29,100, and Washington, number three, [with] 29,000.” Finally we can be known for something other than Ben Franklin and cheesestakes.
“Alright, so there are some numbers. That still doesn’t mean anyone cares?” Thankfully, that statement is untrue. Salisbury has statements from more than one Philadelphian discussing the importance of arts and culture in Philadelphia, including Philip R. Hopkins the research vice president for Select Greater Philadelphia. While Hopkins had yet to read the report at the time of the article’s appearance, he acknowledges that “[arts] and culture are ‘very much a significant contributor to quality of life…that’s important for corporations. It’s important for workers. It’s very much an enabler of economic development.’” But as Hopkins implies, the arts and culture do more than help the economy, much more.
For me, the arts have always been a means of self-expression. That being said, listening to other people’s comments on its uselessness was not only painful, but sad because they failed to see the bigger picture. Thankfully, as Salisbury explains with information from the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance study as well as opinions individuals from the Philadelphia region, the arts in Philadelphia help to move the city forward and thrive in a period of economic hardship, not only by improving morale and relaxation, but by boosting the economy of the region as well and helping to sustain and create jobs. If you don’t believe me, check out Salisbury’s article at http://www.philaculture.org/research/reports/arts-culture-economic-prosperity-greater-philadelphia-2012 and have a look at the report itself to see just how much research was behind Salisbury’s article, available at http://articles.philly.com/2012-09-25/news/34062977_1_tom-kaiden-greater-philadelphia-cultural-alliance-cultural-fund.
In my experience, taking the time to read both the article and the report has not only improved my knowledge of the economic state of Philadelphia and the arts, it has also solidified my feelings about my major and made me more confident, not only about my own future, but that the influence of art and culture will not be forgotten even in times of economic hardships.
Salisbury, Stephen. “Phila. Economy: A pretty picture.” Philly.com. 25 Sept. 2012. Web. 30 Sep. 2012.
“Arts, Culture & Economic Prosperity in Greater Philadelphia.” Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance. 29Sept. 2012. Web. 30 Sept. 2012.