Investment in the arts is investment in communities

Last week, my local hospital in Laramie made masks optional instead of mandatory for the first time since the pandemic began.While COVID remains a threat to our community, there is room to celebrate. This “masks are optional” sign in a hospital was a reminder of the most difficult times of the pandemic when we all turned to art to add beauty to the world. We’ve read books, watched movies, and devoured TV series, all of which we have to thank the creative minds of writers, screenwriters, and actors for. The irony of the world turning to the arts during the pandemic is that the arts and culture sector has been hit hard by COVID: New data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis show that Wyoming has lost lost more than 1,000 of his jobs in . This number could have been significantly higher without the federal and state relief funds that the Wyoming Arts Council was able to provide through the National Endowment for the Arts and Gov. Mark Gordon’s leadership. We’ve heard from many artists that this relief fund has helped them feed their families and keep residents from moving out of state. As we enter the new year, here are some reasons why you should continue to invest in art.

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EconomyThe arts drive the economy in cities and rural areas across the state. Wyoming accounts for her over 10,500 jobs in the arts and culture sector. Art helps promote tourism because people who travel for art stay longer and spend more money. A vibrant arts community helps attract businesses and retain youth.

health and well-beingArt and creativity are among the most effective treatments for trauma, depression and anxiety. Senior-focused arts programs help people build the community and connections they need to become active members of society.

Building strong communitiesArt and creativity foster the entrepreneurial spirit communities need to survive and thrive. Downtowns are made more glamorous with murals, and art and music festivals bring people from all walks of life together and help find common ground in times of division.

Education and Workforce BuildingAn arts education helps build valuable skills for all economic sectors. At the recent Governors’ Business Forum, the keynote speaker spoke about the skills most sought after by business leaders. At the top of the list were critical thinking and creativity, both skills inherent in an arts education.

beauty and graceJust as we turned to art to find beauty during the pandemic, we are turning to art to enrich our lives, make our communities more vibrant, and make our ideas more vibrant. You can look. Now is the time, as a state, to help our communities by recognizing the value of the arts in building a more promising future for them.

Michael Lange is executive director of the Wyoming Arts Council, whose mission is to provide leadership and invest resources to champion, sustain, and nurture communities through the arts.

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