By Tom Kaiden
Do you enjoy going to the theater, dance performances, or painting classes at your local community center? You're not alone. Despite the economic downturn, the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance's Cultural Engagement Index has risen 11 percent since 2008.
The arts have a long and proud history here, and our vibrant cultural sector generates more than $1.3 billion in economic activity while supporting 40,000 jobs. We have built up a wealth of cultural assets over generations, including some of the nation's best museums and science, heritage, and performing-arts groups. Philadelphia is becoming a destination for its culture and creativity as much as for its history.
Unfortunately, some state legislators are threatening to cut access to arts and culture even as Philadelphians are clamoring for more. This month, the state House voted for a drastic, 70 percent reduction in funding for the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.
Despite a modest grant budget of about $8 million in fiscal 2010, the council supported arts programming in every county in the Commonwealth. In this region, it has funded musical programs for children in Philadelphia domestic violence shelters, music lessons in Bucks County, acting therapy at the Kennett Area Senior Center, and more. It educates children, strengthens communities, and supports creative industries. That's why Gov. Corbett's budget proposal would maintain the council's funding despite the state's $4 billion shortfall.
It would be foolish to try to save $5 million by disinvesting in a sector that produces $283 million in annual state and local tax revenue. The state Senate is expected to vote on the arts council's funding next week. Its decision will affect every citizen in the region, and our representatives in Harrisburg need to hear that we care about arts and culture.