Arts represent rich investment in self

Dividends for Chico are many

Dr. Paul Friedlander is chair of the city of Chico Arts Commission. He is director of Chico State’s Music Industry Program, author of Rock and Roll: A Social History and a banjo-pickin’, bass-playin’, doo-wop-singin’ Oregon Duck.

Spring is a time of renewal and reflection, a process that for the Arts Commission includes listening to Chico artists, arts organizations and citizens; taking time to reflect upon the value of arts and culture—the visual, literary and performing arts—in Chico’s everyday life.

Last year, nine organizations and 10 individual artists received awards totaling $125,000 (or three-tenths of 1 percent of the city’s general fund). This amount was significantly less than hotel-tax revenue generated by arts-and-culture tourism. As a result:

• More patrons visited Chico Art Center’s Open Studios Tour during Artoberfest;

• More people attended Shakespeare in the Plaza;

• Chico Children’s Choir grew and sent members to sing across the country;

• Chris Jennings hung her beautiful Robin Hood batik at the Post Office;

• Banjo-ologist Gordy Ohliger performed his John and Annie Bidwell show;

• And much more.

With nine-tenths of 1 percent of its Redevelopment Agency budget, Chico also funded or matched funds for additional arts projects. While less than the proportion spent in most comparable cities, RDA funding has certainly enhanced our quality of life. Look everywhere in our city and you see examples:

• Our Hands (displayed on USA Today’s Life Section front page);

• The marvelous Caper Acres Sea Serpent (a five-artist collaboration in mosaic tile and glass);

• The Century of Flight historical project at the airport;

• The Martin Luther King Jr. statue;

• Luminary art benches commemorating figures from Chico’s history.

These municipal allocations are very important. However, arts advocates, as well as political and business leaders, recognize that the arts may also be Chico’s most efficient and effective economic-development generator. The arts are a clean industry, inviting tourists to spend money here while creating jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Arts funding generates a profit for Chico. And, when businesses are asked where they want to relocate, they respond, “In a place where the creative culture flourishes.”

Investing in the arts and culture industries makes good business sense. But the arts also speak to the heart and soul, not just the pocket book. They deeply resonate in these times of hardship and distress. They have the potential to reach beyond the present, to the infinite and the spiritual; to soothe, and bring a smile to one’s face. This experience costs nothing.

Pablo Picasso said, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Each person finds his or her own art treasure. In this time of reflection and renewal, may we all find a way to grow a little more beauty for the city of Chico.