I'm looking for...



Happening:
Anytime
to
Near:
Anywhere
That is
Anything

Q&A: Arts Economist Ray Perryman


by Stephen Becker 17 Aug 2010

Ray Perryman, an Waco economist who has studied the economic impact of the arts in Texas, was the keynote speaker at Wednesday’s Arts Advocacy Day. The event drew about 60 arts leaders, who were there to learn more about how they can effectively campaign for greater monetary and media attention for the arts. After his address to the group, Perryman chatted with Art&Seek about the link between the arts and the economy.

CTA TBD

Ray Perryman, an Waco economist who has studied the economic impact of the arts in Texas, was the keynote speaker at Wednesday’s Arts Advocacy Day. The event drew about 60 arts leaders, who were there to learn more about how they can effectively campaign for greater monetary and media attention for the arts.

After his address to the group, Perryman chatted with Art&Seek about the link between the arts and the economy.

Art&Seek: One of the points you made in your speech is that cutting investment in the arts actually has a trickle down effect to other areas of the economy.

Ray Perryman: Basically, as the economy progresses over time, things like manufacturing become more productive relative to the arts. That’s because you can always automate more. You can always build something that’s faster – whether it’s a faster computer chip or robotic arm or whatever the case may be. Yet in the process, all of that’s driven by creativity. And the creative process doesn’t lend itself to automation at the same level. The classic example is you can’t get two people to play a string quartet. It’s going to be a long time before we get that efficient. So the bottom line is: Unless you have a dedicated effort to make sure that the arts are invested in, they’re going to lag behind everything else. The paradox is that if that happens for a long enough period of time, then you’ve choked off the creative process that allows all those other great things to happen.

A&S: What’s your advice to arts groups as they try to advocate for themselves?

R.P.: I think the critical thing is to try to keep the programming aspects of it as focused and together as possible. If you have to decrease quantity, try to improve quality. If you can possibly get by with cutting administrative expenses, bringing in more volunteers, those kinds of things – anything that keeps the outreach and the focus and the creative aspect of it going, it’s very important to try and do those things during [tough] times. And also, use it as an opportunity to look for creative opportunities to do things that may well pay dividends down the road.

A&S: Tough times can often be an incubator for creativity.

R.P.: Back in the Great Depression, when Franklin Roosevelt set up the Works Progress Administration, one of the things he put people to work doing was painting murals in various places. Two of the young artists who got jobs painting murals were named Willem De Kooning and Jackson Pollock – who are two of the greatest American artists of our time. And yet they got their start when they were literally starving painting murals for the WPA. There’re those kinds of stories that go on throughout history – you find these great stories of difficult times leading to creativity.

A&S: Your 2001 study on the economic impact of the arts in Texas has been cited by virtually anyone trying to increase or maintain arts funding. Have you thought about updating it?

R.P.: We think about it from time to time or taking it to a different level – going beyond just the state of Texas. The basic results – which kind of dove deep into the creative process – have been used all over the world and all over the country by groups. So we’ve thought about doing that. It’s a huge amount of effort, and so I’m not sure exactly when we may take that on. But it’s certainly something we think about from time to time.

SHARE
  • Dr. Perryman has great insight into economic drivers both short-term and long-term and the arts are a critical piece of the economic mechanism. Over the centuries, there has always been public and private investment in the arts. Greece and Rome and Egypt are still reaping the benefit of cultural investment that occurred thousands of years ago. Investment in the arts is critical to pulling our City out of recession and positioning us to be competitive in the future.

  • Kirsten James

    I love Mr. Perryman’s first example of how you can’t do a string quartet with 2 musicians and that prolonged and deep cuts can and will hurt a community in the long run. I must say though in response to his other comment, that almost all of the local arts groups have already made administrative cuts and any other cuts that we could. The 53% cut in programming proposed currently in the City of Dallas budget will result in program cuts because everything else has been cut! Not to mention the fact that every arts group I know already works on very little overhead to focus on the art form. Most non-profit arts budgets are down 20 to 30% from previous years. We know that there are many priorities in the city budget and we just hope to have our cuts minimized so that creatvity and programs for all Dallas citizens can continue.

  • I certainly understand the city needs to either find revenue or cut expenses or both to create a realistic budget work for the next fiscal year. However it appears that cuts to the arts budgets are disproportionate to other cuts and there is no guarantee that these will be restored once the economic situation improves. I am 100% in favor of a tax increase that would be eliminated when old bonds are paid off and/or economic benchmarks are met when the economy improves. Investment in the arts helps our economy overall and results in increased revenue and jobs in our city. Most of the programs that will be affected are already running bare bones administratively from prior year cuts. There are many other short-and-long term benefits that the collective art programs provide to our citizens for free or nominal cost and it is important for these to continue particularly during trying times. We also face the potential of losing creative visual and performing artists who throw their hands up and move somewhere else and will be left with a cultural void after we have worked hard to make Dallas a vibrant city for the arts on so many levels. Thanks.

  • After 25 years of working in the arts, I can say money has always been an issue. We tighten up, we spend less, we produce less. It’s very unfortunate all around. So glad Mr. Perryman came to town.