Opinion/About change – Arts’ civic role critical

By Todd Cohen

Tripped by the stumbling economy, the arts need to find new footing.

If they are patient and willing to be their own toughest critics, arts groups can learn to thrive.

Even in flush times, many funders view the arts as a luxury.

That makes it even tougher in a sour economy to compete for dollars with agencies that meet basic human needs.

And the economy has left the arts with deep government cuts and a steeper drop in foundation giving than charities overall.

Many arts groups also have delayed needed capital and endowment drives.

The fierce chase for dollars might tempt some charities to change their spots, but pandering to donors can betray a charity’s mission and customers.

Arts groups should build on their strengths and the critical role they play.

The arts enrich and inspire us. That value, even greater when times are tough, cannot be measured.

What can be tracked is the arts’ impact on jobs, spending and economic growth.

The arts also can be a powerful tool to help youngsters and adults acquire the knowledge and training they need to succeed in school and work.

Through innovative partnerships and marketing that emphasize and tap their cultural and civic value, arts groups can boost themselves and their communities.

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