“When members of a society wish to secure that society’s rich heritage they cherish their arts and respect their artists. The esteem with which we regard the multiple cultures offered in our country enhances our possibilities for healthy survival and continued social development.”   

                                                                                        -MAYA ANGELOU, Poet

Dear Mayor Cranley, and City Council Members,

I am a visual artist who is honored to serve as a Cincinnati Art Ambassador Fellow for 2014-2015. I want to sincerely thank you for your support of this program that is critical to fostering and sustaining a thriving creative, innovative, and original culture in Cincinnati.  The arts positively impact the quality of life for all Cincinnati residents and enrich our many distinctive neighborhoods. A Cincinnati that values a knowledgeable, ethical, democratic, and entrepreneurial populace, inclusive of diverse voices and viewpoints, is wise to prioritize supporting the arts.

I am deeply disappointed to learn that the Cincinnati Art Ambassador Fellowship program will not be funded next year. Although I understand that budgets are tight in this economy, I would like to stress that the funding you invest in these artists is quickly put back into the community economy as the artists work to complete their projects. Also, I fear that an inconsistency of arts funding from this program will set a tone that diminishes Cincinnati’s reputation as a city that has the capacity to generate and keep the highest quality of art and artists. Please step forward to play a role in keeping our most creative citizens here. I strongly urge you to find the resources to restore funding to the Cincinnati Art Ambassador Fellowship Program for 2015. 

Investing in artists is investing in our local and national economy. In the U.S., the arts (including independent artists) are a more significant aspect of a community’s economy than is often generally realized. A 2013 report released by the US Bureau of Economic Analysis states that the arts and cultural sector as an industry (producing goods and services) contributed “3.2 percent — or $504 billion — of current-dollar GDP in 2011. In comparison, BEA’s estimated value of the U.S. travel and tourism industry was 2.8 percent of GDP. “ According to the report, six industries accounted for 45 percent of this value, including the performing arts and independent artists.* According to a 2009 report from the Bowling Green Center for Regional Development, creative industries (including visual arts/photography and performing arts) contribute $1.06 billion in local and state tax revenues annually.**

At the root of supporting the arts is supporting artists. Directly supporting artists is essential to fueling a vibrant cultural ecosystem. A common perception of an artist is the lone person toiling away in his or her studio. However, the reality for working artists is that they interact with businesses of all kinds; provide content for commercial and non-profit arts organizations; hire other artists, fabricators, technicians, accountants, lawyers, engineers, marketing professionals, printers, shipping services, etc. to assist them; teach and take classes and lessons to share or enhance their skills; rent studio, performance, and exhibition space on a short or long term basis (in 2013, I spent over $13,000 in studio rental); rent equipment; donate artwork and hours for community fundraisers, events and organizations; develop, curate, publish articles about, and otherwise contribute to small and large scale projects (such as Fotofocus or the Cincy Fringe Festival) that bring significant tourism and dollars to the region; and spend their hard-earned income in the community where they live.


The best part of this cultural ecosystem is that the public benefits from the work artists do through opportunities to access abundant arts and cultural offerings. What artists produce is very often shared broadly in the community, and often shared at no cost in public gallery exhibitions or public performances.

Again, I thank you and applaud your support of independent artists this year. In doing so, you represent Cincinnati as a forward-thinking city that understands the importance of building a creative economy. As representatives of our city government, your support, acknowledgement, and demonstrated appreciation for the arts is vital to creating a place where artists (and their families) want to live, grow, feel valued, and see evidence of creative opportunities of all kinds in the community. Please continue to show your support for artists and respect their important role in our community. I urge you not to let funding for the Cincinnati Art Ambassador Fellowship Program lapse.


Susan Byrnes

Artist, Arts Writer, Independent Curator, and Independent Audio Producer

2014 Cincinnati Art Ambassador Fellow

*http://arts.gov/news/2013/us-bureau-economic-analysis-and-national-endowment-arts-release-preliminary-report-impact#sthash.qsSTPMSI.dpuf and http://arts.gov/news/2013/us-bureau-economic-analysis-and-national-endowment-arts-release-preliminary-report-impact#sthash.qsSTPMSI.dpuf



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