Murphy spotlights economic impact of arts, culture in New Haven event

CT Insider

NEW HAVEN — The arts are big business in Connecticut, with a $9 billion economic impact and a 40,000-person work force spread across 10,000 businesse in the sector, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said during a round table discussion Friday at the Creative Arts Workspace.

Within the arts sector, the two biggest employers were design and publishing businesses, which employ 13,483 people; and visual arts, where 7,765 people work, according to the most recent data from the group Americans for the Arts.

Murphy acknowledged that because of changing tax policies at the federal level and decreasing revenue flowing into state coffers, it is becoming more difficult for nonprofits and arts businesses to get financial help from the public. But he encouraged the people who attended the event to continue fighting for the arts sector’s fair share of funding.

“You’re always playing this budget battle,” he said. “But we need to pursue (government) policies that encourage this.”

Kathy Maher, executive director of the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, said the average American doesn’t really think much about where nonprofit arts organizations get their money.

“They just assume we exist,” Maher said. “It’s an exhausting life to convince people to support what we do.”

By contrast, she said similar nonprofits in some other countries are completely government subsidized.

Some pushed for government programs to hire artists to develop public installations of their work. Murphy said public school policies need to be changed so that there is a way to measure the quality of art education in classrooms around the state and the country.

Anne Coates, executive director of the Creative Arts Workshop, said after the roundtable that arts-based organizations and businesses need to form partnerships to better advocate their needs to policymakers.

“I welcome having a friendly face (in government) who is sympathetic to our needs,” Coates said.