Why the Arts Matter

This is an editorial that I wrote for Vallejo’s Times-Herald newspaper, detailing the myriad ways that the arts contribute to society. The points are tailored to Solano County’s readership, but the points raised are applicable to any community. The arts directly add to the quality of life enjoyed in society, and benefit communities in countless ways.

Throughout my career as a conductor, I have contemplated the meaning of the arts as it pertains to our society. As a young musician, I believed in the idea of art for art’s sake, a rather aesthetic view that holds that the arts need no justification. But as I have matured, the extraordinary benefit that the arts convey is plain to see.

The arts are not just about the medium or the message, but rather the sense of community that grows out of an expression that speaks to our communities. Put simply, it is a quality-of-life issue, one that invites the receiver to interpret what they see or hear. Without you, the arts have no meaning, as it is up to you to make sense of what you experience. This is the beauty of art.

In a recent survey published by Americans for the Arts Action Fund, 9 out of 10 people in California felt that the arts are a significant factor in the quality of life in any community. Our cultural diversity is Vallejo’s most valuable resource, and the arts bring communities together, with 72% of respondents recognizing that the arts promote understanding in the community. Related to this, University of Pennsylvania researchers have demonstrated that a high concentration of the arts in a city leads to higher civic engagement, more social cohesion, higher child welfare, and lower poverty rates.
The quality of life enjoyed in a community makes it more attractive to highly desirable, knowledge-based employees. A KPMG survey of more than 1,200 high-technology workers examined the factors associated with the attractiveness of a new job. It found that “community quality of life” was the second most important factor — just below salary — and more important than benefits, stock options, or company stability. Likewise, the Arts indisputably improve academic performance. Students, regardless of socioeconomic status who are engaged in arts learning have higher GPAs, standardized test scores, and lower drop-out rates. No wonder that 92 percent of Americans believe that arts are part of a well-rounded education.

I am proud of the Vallejo Symphony’s school education programs. Any fine orchestra that has a social conscience recognizes the need to educate, bringing new experiences and points of view to the youth of our community. This is one of many points of difference that the Vallejo Symphony offers our community.
Economically, 86% of respondents believe that arts spaces are good for local businesses and the economy. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis found that in California alone, arts and culture contribute 7% of the state economy. That’s close to $200 billion! The arts also bring revenue to local businesses. Nationally, the typical attendees at nonprofit arts events spend over $30 per person, per event, beyond the cost of admission on items such as meals, parking, and babysitters.

I love Vallejo’s downtown, and its architectural beauty is enhanced by arts organizations such as the immensely popular Arts Walk and your Vallejo Symphony. The arts have a significant part to play in the renaissance of Vallejo, and it is a joyful responsibility of the Vallejo Symphony to contribute in our way.

I started speaking of the idea of Arts for Art’s sake, and while the arts are not a panacea for all of society’s ills, it is clear there is utility and value in the arts.
This utility was recognized 91 seasons ago, when the community of Vallejo recognized the importance of the arts. This idea created the Vallejo Symphony, and for 10 decades, your orchestra has been contributing to our community through concerts, outreach programs, educational concerts, chamber festivals, and support of living composers, and local artists. We understand profoundly that a professional orchestra is a community resource that needs to fully engage without community. Any fine orchestra understands this responsibility, and I believe we owe our longevity to this historic community support that has never wavered and has never been taken for granted.

We strive to engage all of Vallejo’s diverse communities, understanding that an orchestra represents so much more than just performing music. The Vallejo Symphony exists to serve you, because the arts matter.

— Marc Taddei/Music Director of the Vallejo Symphony