This year has been a time of reckoning, forcing all of us to think about what really matters. Many in the arts feel as though their contributions to the national economy have been sidelined by the political response to COVID, at a time when the arts and creative industries have provided hope and solace to many of us in the midst of lockdown.
Who cares about the arts & creative industries anyway?
If 2020 has made anything clear, it’s that in some circles there is still the lingering perception that “The Arts” is the exclusive enclave of canape-nibbling elites who spend their weekends swanning about at gallery openings, when the reality is very different.
If the COVID crisis has made one other thing very clear, it’s that the arts and creative industries employ large numbers of people within Australia. They also make a significant contribution to the economy, our culture and our collective sense of wellbeing.
Not convinced? Let’s take a look at the numbers...
Those of us who understand the significance of arts and culture and its contribution to the depth and richness of human experience know that its importance cannot be reduced to a set of numbers on a spreadsheet or a government policy document.
But, we live in a society where “value” is often determined by “financial value”. For those who need an economic argument, the good news is that the arts and creative industries have also demonstrated significant benefits to economic, social and wellbeing indicators.
The arts & creative industries are good for business
The arts sector is big business. Statistics show that the creative industries contributed $22.7 billion to the Victorian economy in 2013. This is higher than the figure for construction at $19.8 billion, and comes very close to manufacturing at $26.3 billion.
These sectors aren’t exclusive to urban demographics - they also thrive in regional areas too. In Bendigo, the cultural and creative industries make up 13.3% of employment and in 2016 there were 1,177 people employed in cultural and creative occupations.
The arts and creative industries also have an economic multiplier effect on other sectors, adding value to the hospitality and tourism industry. Lots of people fly interstate to see a show, stay overnight at a hotel and catch up for dinner and drinks with their friends.
The arts & creative industries are good for society
Economists and policy makers are increasingly moving towards economic models that also factor in emotional, social and cognitive factors when gauging the health of society. Engagement with the arts is linked to significant positive increase in life satisfaction.
Using the results of the Australia Council’s 2013 Arts Participation Survey, researchers Daniel Fujiwara and Rachel Smithies have shown that the arts may be worth $66 billion to Australia’s social wellbeing - coming as no surprise to those of us who love the arts.
The arts & creative industries are good for wellbeing
According to the Australia Council for Arts, 98% of Australians engage with the arts and recognise their positive impacts. Studies show that we spend almost $20 billion on cultural activities annually, which is 4% of average weekly household expenditure.
In addition to this, support for the arts within our nation has grown over the last two decades: the proportion of Australians who agree that the arts make for a more rich and meaningful life has increased from 71% in 1999, to 80% in 2009 and to 85% in 2013.
We all need the arts, whether we realise it or not.
Far from the preserve of wealthy elites, the arts and creative industries are an indispensable part of Australian society and culture, employing thousands of people and bringing joy, meaning, personal fulfilment and entertainment to millions more.
The arts enable us to express ourselves, to think creatively, develop new ideas and help us deal with stress, anxiety and depression. If COVID-19 has shown us anything, it’s that the arts and creative industries are indispensable to the Australian way of life, our shared sense of identity, our personal wellbeing and our national economy.
We’d love to get your thoughts on this, as members of the arts and creative community in Bendigo. Feel free to join the discussion on the Emporium Creative Hub Facebook page, or in the Bendigo’s Creative Community Facebook group.