Letter from the Editor: Arts Economy

The phrase “starving artist” is so deeply embedded in our vernacular that it’s a challenge to connect to the idea of the arts as an economic engine. Yet, an updated study, “Arts and Economic Prosperity IV,” was released in 2012 reporting that America’s arts industry generated $135.2 billion in economic activity, according to the nonprofit organization Americans For Arts. That includes performances, exhibits, events and sales. Even during a recession, the arts world has held its own.

Granted, the purpose of creating art is not rooted in generating trade and industry, but rather in expression and beauty. Yet the value of public art projects, galleries, artist studios, museums and arts events is inarguable. Arts communities are heralded as tourist attractions; art events are lauded as destination affairs — think art walks in most towns with a Main Street anywhere in the Northern Rockies.

In tribute to the tremendous artists in our region, Big Sky Journal dedicates an entire issue to the arts; we’ve been doing it for 20 years. This year, whether it is the galleries and architectural restoration of Montana’s largest city (“Wandering Billings”), the burgeoning contemporary art scene in Jackson, Wyoming, (“Contemporary Re-calibration”) or world-class opera in Bozeman (“Opera in Montana: An Overture”), the enriching opportunities to bask in regional art works and venues is impressive.

Look to the simplicity of Jerry Iverson’s abstract paintings for inspiration or to the electric colors of Tom Gilleon’s work (“Let Icons Be Icons”), where a combination of the lost West meets the bold palette of the new West. You’ll find inspiration in the studios of a sculptor, a painter and a best-selling author in the “Western Design” column. In “Local Knowledge,” see how the outreach of Big Sky came to fruition at the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center.

It’s important to acknowledge that beyond the clear intrinsic value the arts play in our lives, they also have a tangible value that bolsters community and the local economy. I hope this issue conveys the simple fact that the arts make our lives better.

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