Arts Make New Hampshire

Arts. Culture. Learning. They are not luxuries — they are bedrock New Hampshire. The arts are prominent in the State Constitution, every town has a library, and most towns have municipal opera houses because our forebears understood that arts and culture are essential to individuals and communities.

The Granite State boasts myriad artists, writers, designers, filmmakers and performers of all kinds. New Hampshire’s culture, past and present, is rich, and we know that investing in the arts pays dividends. In New Hampshire, the approximately $673,000 in grants awarded annually by the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts leverages over $30 million in spending by grantee organizations and projects!

Overall, the not-for-profit arts in New Hampshire generate well over $115 million in total economic activity annually. This spending — $53 million by arts and culture organizations and an additional $62.1 million in event-related spending by their audiences — supports 3,493 full-time equivalent jobs, generates $79.5 million in household income to local residents, and delivers $11.6 million in local and state government revenue. This economic impact sends a strong signal that when we support the arts, we not only enhance our quality of life, but we also invest in New Hampshire’s economic well-being. And that’s just the non-profits!

Larger than the nonprofit community, New Hampshire’ creative business community is part of a $699 billion national industry representing 4.3% of GDP, greater than transportation or construction. (US Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis) Artist cooperatives, poetry slams and other new forms of arts participation are growing in the Granite State, adding to well-established fine craft organizations, theatres (summer and year-round), artist colonies, filmmaking, historic sites, music, craft and poetry festivals, museums and galleries. All of this activity, plus the beauty of our mountains, forests, lakes and seacoast, draws visitors and additional artists to our state.

These factors are significant to tourism, the state’s second biggest industry. Arts tourism is big business in New Hampshire. The arts are also essential to our children. Studies continually confirm that arts education improves academic performance, stimulates and develops imagination, critical thinking and problem-solving, positively impacts developmental growth, and teaches children important life skills and values.

Why then, given the positive impact on our people, our communities, and our economy, is adequate funding for the arts such an issue? Since 2008, the state appropriation for the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts has decreased 65% and federal funding has remained virtually flat. When we make shortsighted budget choices and don’t adequately fund the arts, we leave federal dollars on the table, sending our tax dollars to help some other state’s economy instead of ours. The arts economy generates significant income in and for our state and every dollar helps.

#ArtsVote2016 NH advocacy training at the Currier Museum in Manchester, NH

Think about how you define New Hampshire, the truly unique things — how many of them have a link to the arts? So today, as Presidential hopefuls crisscross our state asking for votes, let’s tell them something about who we are. Tell them about the things we make with our minds, hands and souls –that the arts are the true and unique value of our state.

This opinion piece by Roger Brooks, Chairman of the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, first ran in the Concord Monitor on July 12, 2015.