Editorial: Durham must continue support of the arts

May. 20, 2013 @ 07:09 PM

One thing's for sure: Durham can put on a show. But do we go to enough of them?

Last week, in a report of the nation's Creative Vitality Index, Durham scored above the national average, according to The Herald-Sun's Cliff Bellamy.

The index - created by the Western States Arts Federation - measures people employed in the arts as well as public participation in the arts, through sales of tickets, books and artwork.

We gained creative jobs in Durham despite the recession, with arts-related jobs increasing 22 percent between 2006 and 2011.

For some reason, this steady uptick in creative opportunities doesn't surprise us. Right now, the N.C. Department of Commerce reports, creative careers make up 5.4 percent of Durham County's total employment.

It's good news for artistic people hoping to find an energetic hometown in which to thrive. Our top creative jobs include photographers, writers, musicians, graphic designers and public relations specialists.

"You're doing an extraordinary job of building this wonderful creative economy," said Carl Nordgren, a creative entrepreneurship professor at Duke.

Susan Kluttz, North Carolina's Secretary of Cultural Resources, told the Creative Entrepreneur Expo audience that the arts have "risen to the challenge to become our new economic leader."

The former mayor of Salisbury also noted that the arts are important for more than just quality of life. She said they're valuable in economic development, gang prevention and improving race relations.

We couldn't agree more. And we're happy to celebrate good news about the arts in Durham.

But, while Durham compares favorably overall and is 25 percent above the national average, the index does indicate that we're struggling when it comes to photography store sales, nonprofit arts organization revenues and arts-active organization revenues.

And we've been shedding jobs for music directors, librarians, media and communication workers, landscape architects and fashion designers.

Performing arts participation is on the upswing, though, and book and record store sales along with art gallery and artist sales are improving, according to the index.

Our index score staggered a bit from 2012 to 2011 because of those nonprofit arts revenue issues: recession and funding cuts continued to take their toll. Perhaps as the overall economy continues to recover, corporate and private donations to support the arts also will bounce back.