• September 17, 2019

GUEST VIEW: Arts benefit the community - Odessa American: Guest Columns

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GUEST VIEW: Arts benefit the community

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Posted: Sunday, July 14, 2019 4:00 am

“The arts are essential to any complete national life. The State owes it to itself to sustain and encourage them..illl fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the reverence and delight which are their due.”

 -Winston Churchill

On Tuesday, the City Council voted to allocate $700,000 towards arts funding in Odessa. We are so thankful to Mayor Turner and Council members Hamilton, Bryant, White, Sprawls, Willis and Dean for recognizing the need for arts and culture in our community.

The Arts are often thought of as a luxury, something nice to have, but not necessary for the day to day existence of the average person. Some even think of the arts as for other people, as if you need to achieve a certain standing in your community or acquire a certain income level for art to become available to you.

What I have found in my five years as executive director for Odessa Arts is that the arts are the foundation on which a community can build itself. Communities that invest in the Arts have a higher quality of life, a better educational system, and a more diverse economy than communities that don’t invest in the arts.

Here in Odessa, there are cultural events and programs that are accessible to everyone. By now, everyone knows about the Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center, and it’s wide variety of entertainment: from touring Broadway productions, to Christian rock bands, to Jeff Dunham. Did you know there is also a free outdoor concert series happening right now in Downtown Odessa?

Hot Summer Nights has been going strong for 26 years, and regularly features local performers alongside touring talent.

The Hispanic Art Association presents an art show in October, celebrating the rich history and cultural contributions of Mexican-Americans. Every Friday during the academic year, Chris Stanley and Mario Kiran from UT Permian Basin load up the Pots N Prints trailer, and drive to any number of smaller West Texas towns, where they spend the day teaching ceramics and print making to students whose school no longer has an art program. Several of those students have consequently attended UT Permian Basin to persue an art degree. This program is so successful it has attracted national attention from the Washington Post. The NEA considers it one of the most effective rural arts programs that it funds.

In 2015, the arts generated $166.3 billion dollars in expenditures, and employed over 4 million people in the United States. That’s more than the transportation and agricultural industries combined. Arts are an economic driver that affect retail, restaurants, construction, and of course, overnight lodging. The average person spends an additional $31.47 in food, clothing, childcare and transportation when attending an arts event. For every sold out performance at the Permian Playhouse, that’s an additional $12,000 that goes back into the local economy.

In 2018, over 50,000 people attended at least one cultural event in Odessa, with 1/3 of those being cultural tourists. The Ellen Noel Art Museum sees as many visitors per capita as the Dallas Museum of Art, and the West Texas Jazz Society is host to the longest running jazz party in the world. Our public art is routinely highlighted in the media, and is used to market Odessa to prospective businesses, tourists and families looking to transition to West Texas.

The people who are employed by the various cultural organizations are your friends, neighbors and family members. They buy groceries here, pay mortgages, send their children to school here. Some have student debt to pay off, and they all pay taxes here. They also have a desire to improve our community though theater, dance, music, and visual art. They perform not for themselves (and certainly not for the paycheck), in order to give back some beauty to Odessa, to make us feel proud of our home.

By investing Hotel Occupancy Tax in the arts, our community will reap the benefits of a diverse economy, stronger tourism and, most importantly, community pride.

Odessa, TX

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