Arts. Culture. Learning. They are not a luxury – they are the things that define us. What would Salem be without the House of the Seven Gables? Chicago without is architecture? Philadelphia without a LOVE statue?
Here in New Hampshire we are fortunate. For a small state we have a wealth of artists, writers, and sculptures. Our culture, past and present, is rich – but with COVID-19 the future is in question.
We know that teaching and investing in the arts pays dividends. In New Hampshire, arts-relatedbusinesses support 3,505 creative businesses with 10,346 employees. New Hampshire’s arts and culture organizations contribute $53,028,067 annually to the state’s economy, while their audiences contribute another $62,054,161. Theaters, museums, art galleries and studios attract people and contribute to the business that surround them and to their communities.
We have seen artist cooperatives and sharing programs sprout across the Granite State, adding to the well-established League of New Hampshire Craftsmen, the Furniture Masters, and others. Tourists come to see our crafts fairs; they seek out ties to Parrish, Salinger and Frost. Our only National Park features the work of the sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. So one would wonder why funding for the arts is always debated in our state?
So many studies have shown that teaching the arts helps children understand academics better, be more tolerant, and embrace creativity. They go on to be the entrepreneurs, business leaders, and community leaders that fuel our economy. But time after time we make shortsighted choices and don’t properly funds the arts in our state. We leave millions of Federal dollars on the table and our tax dollars end up helping some other state’s economy instead of ours.
Tourism is New Hampshire’s second biggest industry and it contributes millions to our state budget. We know that people travel to see unique things like landscapes and quaint towns, and the arts are a vital part of that. We have a rich tradition in Summer Theater, artist colonies, and an elite school of painting inspired by our landscapes. But those things can’t be just in the past– they are just as important today as we define who we are and what makes us special.
years after it opened in theaters the movie On Golden Pond still draws folks to our state, painters still flock to the White Mountain for inspiration, and shoppers still prize our fairs, galleries, and diversity of art. For a small state we have an array of museums, indie movie theaters, and performing arts centers all of which offer culture, new ideas, and perspective. Think about how you define our state, the truly unique things – how many of them have a link to the arts? So today, as presidential hopefuls crisscross our state asking for our votes, let’s tell them something about who we are. We define this place not by outlet stores, low taxes, and town shopping. No, we define it by our love of politics, our investment (personal and of our time) in our communities, by the old stonewalls, and the simple town green, by the writers who gave us Peyton Place, Cider House Rules, and the Last Policeman. We think of pewter tankers, amazing turned wood, and granite jewelry. We make these things with our minds, our hands and our souls –That is the true value of this place. If you are proud of New Hampshire, post Granite State of Mind to Facebook, and call this “the 603” – think of what makes us… us, and tell others. Investing in us is an investment in tomorrow.