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  • Mindy Raymond

How the arts boost the Texas economy

DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Art inspires us and delights us. It helps us see the world in new ways. It challenges us. It sparks conversation among us. Studies suggest it even makes us smarter and happier.

In a place as culturally rich as our state, art thrives. Texas is a place where diverse cultures have long encountered each other and coming led, producing fresh genres of music, literature, art and performance. These art forms capture our Texas spirit and preserve our heritage, telling the story of Texas through the ages. But another benefit the arts bring, one that isn't always as obvious, is immense economic value.

This may come as a surprise. But it shouldn't.

The arts are a $5.5 billion industry in Texas, according to the 2017 State of the Arts Report released Thursday by the Texas Cultural Trust. This is a record high for the state. The amount includes revenue from arts-related travel and tourism, as well as jobs. The industry generates nearly $343.7 million in state sales tax revenue annually.

The report also shows public opinion research conducted last year reveals overwhelming support among Texas parents for funding quality arts education in the state's elementary, middle and high schools.

It makes sense that parents would be so supportive. Quality arts instruction helps increase student performance in all areas. This is partly because the arts keep students not only in school, but engaged in school. Across all grade levels, greater arts course completion was associated with higher attendance rates, with the greatest impact at the high school level. On average, Texas high school students engaged in the arts attended an additional full week of school each year, and were half as likely to drop out.

What's more, graduation rates for students engaged in the arts in the 9th grade were nearly 4 percentage points higher than their peers who were not, and enrollment in higher education in the fall semester following graduation was 11.5 percentage points higher for arts-engaged students.

Arts education is helping our children succeed in school, and it doesn't stop at graduation rates and college enrollment. The arts help prepare students for success in their careers and in their lives by teaching creativity, problem solving, strategic thinking, collaboration and perseverance -- skills needed whether you are an artist, an engineer, or an educator.

And for artists, jobs are on the rise. Our state's creative sector employs one in 15 Texans -- nearly 800,000 innovation workers -- and creative sector employment is projected to increase by 20 percent by 2024. It's important to note that on average, wages in this sector are $80,300 compared to $44,000 for non-creative industries. These are the computer scientists, architects, engineers and designers who are positioning Texas as a respected hub of talent and a global leader in innovation. And of course, these are also the performers and artists who inspire and entertain us and contribute to our flourishing Texas culture.

The arts add vibrancy to our cities. They attract creative sector knowledge workers to those cities, helping cities recruit and retain employers who can offer even more well-paid jobs for our growing, diverse population.

Today, more than ever, we're part of a more global, connected economy. The world is turning to Texas not just for natural resources and commodities, but for innovation, creativity and ideas.

And arts is helping Texas deliver.

Gary Gibbs is executive director of the Texas Commission on the Arts.

Ann S. Graham is executive director for Texans for the Arts.

Jennifer Ransom Rice is executive director of the Texas Cultural Trust.

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