NEA Chairman Visits Seattle

NEA Chairman Jane Chu was recently in Seattle to promote the arts and announce The Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge for High School Students.

While Chairman Chu was in Seattle the Washington State Arts Commission, Seattle Office of Arts & Culture and the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience hosted a Town Hall. It was a vibrant night and exemplified why Washington state and Seattle care so passionately about the arts.

Here is why the arts are so important in Chairman Chu’s own words, excerpted from her remarks that night:

Art can celebrate and preserve our heritage, and also help us see what’s special about who we are, and help us find our place in the world. The arts benefit all aspects of society. We see through hard evidence that in the State of Washington alone, the arts generated $1.8 billion in the economy. There were close to 120,000 creative jobs throughout the state, and that number continues to grow.

In the United States as a whole, the arts and cultural sectors made up 4.23% of the nation’s GDP in 2013. That’s $704.2 billion, that’s three-quarters of a trillion dollars. 4.7 million workers were employed in the production of arts and cultural goods.

And when we see that the ways people are participating in the arts have expanded, we can celebrate that Americans are recognizing the value and meaning that the arts bring to their everyday lives. In addition to the wonderful traditional ways the NEA has measured arts participation for the past five decades, we also know that:

Three-quarters of all American adults – that’s 167 million people – used electronic media to view or listen to art; or they create music or videos through electronic media. More than half of all Americans attended a live visual or performing arts event.

And now, more than ever before, a greater share of adults, take art classes or lessons; like creative writing, acting, visual arts, or music. The arts are a sector that is rich and textured. There’s some type of art for everyone and the cultural landscape can accommodate the different perspectives, attitudes, and behaviors of Americans better than it ever has before.

Washingtonians are overachievers when it comes to participating in the arts. For example, the national average rate of U.S. adults who attended a live performing arts event is 37.4%. In the State of Washington, the average is 45.5%.

  • The national average for attending a jazz performance is 8.1%. The Washington average is 12.7%.
  • In classical music, the national average is 8.8%, but the Washington average is 13.9%.
  • In attendance at Latin Music performances, the national average has been 5.1%, and Washington’s average is slightly higher, at 5.6%.
  • The national average for attending a musical play or opera is 16%, but Washington’s attendance is 20.8%. And in non-musical plays, the national average is 8.3%, and Washington exceeds the national average with 9.9%.
  • In dance, the national attendance average of 7.4% is exceeded in Washington by 10.4%.
  • And the national average of 20.8% of those who attended an outdoor performing arts festival, is eclipsed by Washington’s average attendance of 29.3%.

We’re really making progress as a nation, in moving away from the old stereotype that the arts are removed from the rest of society, or that they’re only for some people but not for others, when we know that isn’t true. They allow us to go deeper, at its heart, the arts is the creative process; this process of innovation and creativity that has made America so great. That is what’s behind the transformational power that the arts have.

When artists create, they’re able to draw in a deeper level of energy, of meaning, of value. They’re able to find new solutions to tired old problems, solving them sometimes in unexpected ways. They’re more appreciative of taking risks. And time stands still for them. Have you ever been so immersed in a process that you enjoyed – even if the process was very complex – that you looked up and suddenly realized that hours upon hours had passed? When we enter the creative process, we’re tapping into an opportunity to provide richer meaning, deeper value, and greater connections for ourselves. And when we attend or participate in these performances, and programs, and arts activities, we’re able to share and honor the creative processes of others, as well.

We know that the arts have provided opportunities to transcend the use of linear, everyday words, and touch something deeper and far more meaningful, making our lives worthwhile. They help us become the best versions of ourselves, providing individuals, communities, and industries with the tools needed to grow and achieve.

ARTS was proud to host the Town Hall with Chairman Chu and we all look forward to more NEA visits to Seattle in the future.

Photo by Strauss Peyton Studios.