As we celebrate this most loathed of holidays, I just wanted to try to spread a little cheer about where this money goes but more importantly, what we get back. I think this is often forgotten when talking about the topic of taxes. We tend to focus on what we pay and not so much on what we get in return. The truth is that for many artists, the government actually does a lot for us. Sometimes money directly goes to pay us, and sometimes the money is spent on community endeavors that promote the art we work so hard to produce. I think it can easily be argued that many areas of music and the arts would not exist so strongly today without a little help. So here’s a quick rundown of some things your money goes to support. Quick story, I used to complain about the high tax North Carolina puts on gasoline. Then I lived in a state with much lower gas prices and some of the worst roads I’ve ever seen in my life. Now that I’m back in NC, I never once complain about the slightly higher prices.
Although college certainly is not a pre-requisite for being an artist, many of us still attend to hone our craft and study with established professionals in our fields. Public universities do an amazing job of offering quality programs at a much lower cost than private institutions. My entire undergraduate tuition bill at UNC Greensboro was about the same as one year at many private universities. Not only that, but community colleges are the cornerstone of craftsmen education as well as community classes in things like pottery, creative writing, woodworking, and many more. And of course we cannot forget K-12 public school education. Although we certainly hear about cuts to programs across the country, we should still be thankful that we have programs to cut. Not only is this a great experience for the kids, but it creates livelong lovers of the arts. I can’t tell you how many people come up to me after a show and talk about their own band/music experience as a kid. They appreciate what we do because they know the struggles and hurdles we’ve gotten over to be good at what we do.
Another great way the government gives back is through grants and endowments like the National Endowment for the Arts. If you haven’t checked out your local arts council, then I suggest you do so. There are often local and state chapters that exist to give money to YOU! Here’s a link to the arts councils in my state and city just to give you an idea of what’s out there.
Local governments can make great strides in building a striving arts community. For example, in Greensboro, the City Arts offers classes in many crafts, as well as a several large instrumental and vocal ensembles from the young to the young at heart. I have dealt with the organization several times in the past and I cannot stress how important it is to have support like this in our city.
Even the military is helping to keep music alive with many part and full time bands and chamber groups. If you haven’t ever seen one of these groups, I highly recommend doing so. These concerts are always free (since they are your tax dollars) and feature some of best musicians in the country. This has been a very popular route for young musicians in gaining employment. Again, this also is great advocacy for arts to the public.