10 Reasons to Support Arts and Culture in Jacksonville

Photo Credit: Toni Smailagic of Cre8Jax

Cultural organizations and artists are poised to assist the City as they address their social priorities, including: Public Safety, Economic Development, Neighborhood Development, Youth Engagement, and Health and Wellness. The work of cultural organizations and artists expand far beyond just our sector. We have to dismantle the misconception that arts and culture exist in a silo and instead provide examples of how art and culture are woven into the fabric of every day life.

In 2017, the U.S. News and World Report noted, “Jacksonville is growing. The region witnessed an ignition of the arts and music scene, stimulating business development that has led to demand for a higher standard of living. As a result, Jacksonville is undergoing an economic boom.” Over the past five years, Jacksonville has experienced an average population growth of 1.46%, or 7,759 new residents each year. ​

10 reasons to support the arts, per Americans for the Arts

1) Arts improve individual well-being. 63 percent of the population believe the arts “lift me up beyond everyday experiences,” 64 percent feel the arts give them “pure pleasure to experience and participate in,” and 73 percent say the arts are a “positive experience in a troubled world.”

2) Arts unify communities. 67 percent of Americans believe “the arts unify our communities regardless of age, race, and ethnicity” and 62 percent agree that the arts “help me understand other cultures better”—a perspective observed across all demographic and economic categories.

3) Arts improve academic performance. Students engaged in arts learning have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, and lower drop-out rates. The Department of Education reports that access to arts education for students of color is significantly lower than for their white peers, and has declined for three decades. Yet, research shows that low socio-economic-status students have even greater increases in academic performance, college-going rates, college grades, and holding jobs with a future. 88 percent of Americans believe that arts are part of a well-rounded K-12 education.

4) Arts strengthen the economy. The arts and culture sector is a $730 billion industry, which represents 4.2 percent of the nation’s GDP—a larger share of the economy than transportation, tourism, and agriculture (U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis). The nonprofit arts industry alone generates $135 billion in economic activity annually (spending by organizations and their audiences), which supports 4.1 million jobs and generates $22.3 billion in government revenue.

5) Arts are good for local businesses. Attendees at nonprofit arts events spend $24.60 per person, per event, beyond the cost of admission on items such as meals, parking, and babysitters—valuable revenue for local commerce and the community. Attendees who live outside the county in which the arts event takes place spend twice as much as their local counterparts ($39.96 vs. $17.42).

6) Arts drive tourism. Arts travelers are ideal tourists, staying longer and spending more to seek out authentic cultural experiences. Arts destinations grow the economy by attracting foreign visitor spending. The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that, between 2003-2015, the percentage of international travelers including “art gallery and museum visits” on their trip grew from 17 to 29 percent, and the share attending “concerts, plays, and musicals” increased from 13 to 16 percent.

7) Arts are an export industry. The arts and culture industries had a $30 billion international trade surplus in 2014, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. U.S. exports of arts goods (e.g., movies, paintings, jewelry) exceeded $60 billion.

8) Arts spark creativity and innovation. Creativity is among the top 5 applied skills sought by business leaders—with 72 percent saying creativity is of high importance when hiring. The Conference Board’s Ready to Innovate report concludes, “The arts—music, creative writing, drawing, dance—provide skills sought by employers of the 3rd millennium.” Research on creativity shows that Nobel laureates in the sciences are 17 times more likely to be actively engaged in the arts than other scientists.

9) Arts improve healthcare. Nearly one-half of the nation’s healthcare institutions provide arts programming for patients, families, and even staff. 78 percent deliver these programs because of their healing benefits to patients—shorter hospital stays, better pain management, and less medication.

10) Arts and healing in the military. The arts are part of the military continuum—promoting readiness during pre-deployment as well as aiding in the successful reintegration and adjustment of Veterans and military families into community life. Service members and Veterans rank art therapies in the top 4 (out of 40) interventions and treatments.


In 1990, the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville was designated by the City of Jacksonville as the official re-granting agency for arts and cultural organizations in Duval County. The agency receives funding through the City as budget line item “PSG-Cultural Council.”

Despite this growth, funding for our sector has remained flat since fiscal year 2013-2014; and declined from over a decade ago with peak funding in 2002-2003.

While funding has remained flat, eligible non-profit cultural organizations applying for funds has increased. In fiscal year 2013-2014 there were 21 organizations that received funding. For fiscal year 2018-2019 there are 27 eligible organizations that have applied for funding. This means that organizations are being awarded smaller amounts, which negatively impacts their ability to serve their missions. Compound this with the fact that the State’s budget cut funding for arts and culture by 90%.

Below is a list of arts and cultural organizations who currently benefit from City funding for arts and culture, which is administered through the Cultural Service Grant Program.

Atlantic Beach Experimental Theatre
Beaches Fine Art Series
Beaches Museum and History Park
Cathedral Arts Project
Civic Orchestra of Jacksonville
Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens
Don’t Miss a Beat
Florida Ballet
Florida Theatre
Friday Musicale
Hope at Hand
Jacksonville Children’s Chorus
Jacksonville Dance Theatre
​Jacksonville Historical Society
Jacksonville Symphony Association
Mandarin Museum and Historical Society
Museum of Contemporary Art – Jacksonville
Museum of Science and History
Players by the Sea
Ritz Chamber Players
Riverside Fine Arts Association
Springfield Preservation and Revitalization Council
The Performers Academy
Theatre Jacksonville
WJCT Public Broadcasting

Though funding has remained flat since 2013-2014, the list of eligible organizations applying for funding continues to grow. For fiscal year 18-19, 27 eligible organizations have applied for funding through the Cultural Service Grant Program.

This August, The Florida Theatre conducted an electronic survey. Of the 1,143 respondents, 90% support public funding for the arts, while 87% support increased public funding for the arts.

The next step in advocacy is to appeal to City Council and the Finance Committee. There is a special Finance Committee meeting scheduled for Thursday, August 16 that will specifically review all PSG budget items. Additionally, the Finance Committee meets on the first and third Tuesday of every month at 9:00 AM in City Hall.  These meetings are open to the public.  Between now and September, the Finance Committee will formulate their 2018-2019 budget recommendations to present to all of City Council.

About A.S. MacLeod