by Randall Forte, LVAC executive director
This article appeared in The Morning Call newspaper’s Town Square section on September 22, 2012.
The Lehigh County Board of Commissioners is preparing to vote on the 2013 budget. The 2013 quality of life grants, which fund many Lehigh County arts and cultural nonprofits, are in jeopardy of elimination.
I call on members of the arts, business and educational communities — all of whom are vested in a thriving local economy — to write your elected Lehigh County commissioners and encourage them to maintain essential support for the arts. To support these grants, the commissioners need to hear from you in advance of the public hearing at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, October 10, 2012.
The proposed budget line is nearly $190,000, and the return on investment of those dollars is tremendous for this region’s economy and quality of life. We have the numbers and experience to prove it.
During 2011, the Lehigh Valley Arts Council gathered data from 91 arts and cultural organizations as part of a national economic impact study, “Arts & Economic Prosperity.” According to the study, our region’s nonprofit arts and culture are a $208 million industry annually — one that supports 7,114 full-time equivalent jobs and generates $21.4 million in local and state government revenue. Five million people attended events in 2010, and 31.5 percent of them were out-of-town visitors; 6,532 volunteers donated a total of 292,634 hours to the Lehigh Valley’s participating nonprofits.
Beyond the numbers are innumerable benefits that add to the impact the arts bring to our lives every day. They exist in our personal stories of how the arts bring joy to learning and living, and comfort to the dying and grieving. Most essential, the arts bring members of the community together and foster civic engagement.
Add your voice in support of public funding for the arts. Remind the commissioners that public dollars for the arts are a wise investment in the growth and prosperity of the Lehigh Valley. Encourage them to vote in favor of continuing this vital program.