Fred and Barbara Erb understood and valued the role that the arts played in daily life and the collective impact that artists, organizations, and audiences have on our community. Today, Erb Family Foundation works to further strengthen the sector in the Detroit area in recognition of the role it plays in creating a culturally vibrant metropolitan region.
Here are just three of the ways the arts enrich our lives and support our community’s resilience:
#1 Arts and Culture are Economic Drivers
Arts are one of the top three sectors that drive regional economies. For every musician on stage or artists’ works on view there are dozens of folks playing supporting roles behind-the-scenes and many others engaged in creative professions.
Prior to the pandemic, Michigan’s arts and culture sector represented more than $15.3B of the state’s economy—including 122,000+ people earning more than $8B in wages. Unfortunately, by July 2020, more than one-half of the state’s creative workers were unemployed as of July 2020. The Detroit metropolitan area alone lost nearly 30,000 jobs—about 30% of its creative workforce. Despite this, arts organizations found ways to continue to connect with audiences in an otherwise lonely and isolated time, as demonstrated in this video.
There is evidence that the arts played an out-sized role in both the nation’s and region’s recovery from the Great Recession. While there will be significant differences as we emerge from the pandemic—arts and cultural activity will again hold the promise of accelerating the Detroit area’s recovery.
#2 Arts and Education go Hand-in-Hand
Youth who take part in arts at school or in their after-school hours have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, and are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college. Many of the impacts have been found to be even greater for children of color and those living in poverty.
Perhaps even more importantly, however, participation in the arts extends to the whole child in other critical ways. It boosts social-emotional skills like self-confidence, communication and peer and adult relationships, problem solving and perseverance, and students’ abilities to manage their emotions and have empathy for others. In light of the events of 2020, it’s encouraging to know that the arts have also been shown to be beneficial for children (and adults) who experience trauma. The arts will have a critical role to play—both in and out-of-school—students’ abilities to rebound and heal from their experiences of the past year.
#3 Arts Build Community
More than ever before, artists and arts organizations are showing that their impact is not limited to cultural production and engagement. They bring many other supports—from acting as vaccination sites, to helping with food distribution and creating safe physical and emotional spaces for people to heal and engage in community organizing.
Access to vibrant arts and cultural activities have been long understood to be a quality-of-life factor that helps to both attract and retain residents and strengthen neighborhoods. The lack of opportunities to come together to experience dance, music, and theatre and other art forms was felt intensely during the pandemic and points to the power that the arts continue to hold to connect us to each other and the communities where we live.