For the creative arts

We have long recognized that the creative economy is America’s driving economy. It is called by many names. Maker economy. Gig economy. It is what leads to innovation, to new ideas, and to new opportunities. Now more than ever, technological breakthroughs are making it more possible to work independently, in multiple jobs and in start-ups and micro-businesses. But the government has not kept up with how people work today.

The arts are a crucial part of the creative economy. Not only do they increase our understanding of ourselves and the world we live in, they challenge us, push us, and move us forward. They also help fuel business. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, arts and cultural production contributed $704 billion to the nation’s economy in 2013. This represents 4.2 percent of the GDP—a share of the economy larger than transportation, tourism, or agriculture.

As shown in Americans for the Arts’ Arts & Economic Prosperity IV study, the nonprofit arts industry alone generates $135.2 billion annually in economic activity, supports 4.13 million full-time jobs in the arts and related industries and returns $9.59 billion in federal taxes.

In New Mexico, nearly one in 10 jobs is related to arts and culture. It’s one of the main drivers of New Mexico’s economy.

That’s why today, I, Sen. Udall, am introducing legislation that recognizes the power of the creative economy and helps artists, entrepreneurs and communities continue to grow and create jobs and opportunities. Crafted over many years and with input from many organizations, the bill would make minor adjustments to existing federal programs, including those at agencies like the U.S. Department of Commerce and U.S. Department of Treasury. These changes would take steps to better invest in our country’s workforce and our creative economy to recognize artists as contributors to the small business community.

For example, artists sometimes struggle to access the capital necessary to finance their small businesses.  The bill would require the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to ensure that its loan program criteria assist arts-related businesses. At the U.S. Department of Commerce, the proposal includes provisions for arts-focused business incubators, spanning cultural districts and impacting tourism—which is already an economic driver; since 2003, the percentage of international travelers who include U.S. museum visits on their trip has grown steadily from 18 to 28 percent.

From New York City to tiny Chimayo, New Mexico, the arts are a valuable industry—one that supports jobs, generates government revenue, and is a cornerstone of tourism. Nationally as well as locally, we can give a voice to it all. Today, more than 500 grassroots advocates representing America's diverse tapestry of artists, patrons, cultural and civic leaders from across the country are gathering in Washington for Arts Advocacy Day to drive home the importance of developing strong public policies and increased public funding for the arts.

It’s time to push the future forward and support our creative economy in every way—locally, statewide and nationally—in business, government, and civic life. The CREATE Act can harness the transformative power of the arts and of our nation’s artists to build our economy and enrich our communities.

Udall is New Mexico’s senior senator, serving since 2009. He sits on the Appropriations; the Commerce, Science and Transportation; the Foreign Relations; the Indian Affairs; and the Rules and Administration committees. Lynch is president and CEO of Americans for the Arts.