Arts Ed and Business

Charles Segars, CEO of OvationTV, guest blogs about the connection between arts education and a healthy business sector.

I was asked the question, why does Ovation, a for-profit media company, support arts education? Now, Ovation is a national cable network, reaching 42 million homes, and the only network in the country dedicated to art and contemporary culture – and it might seem like it makes perfect sense. But on the other hand, we are a for-profit business, and like all businesses, we are concerned with the bottom line - so why are we spending considerable resources on advancing the arts and arts education?

As the CEO of the nation’s only arts network, the easy answer is that we want to be a good corporate citizen, and there are over 40 years of research that says the arts and arts education help test scores, and make better students, and make for a stronger, better individual and society as a whole.

But from my viewpoint as a business leader in an arts media company, there are some very compelling bottom-line business reasons to support the arts and arts education.

Ovation is based in Los Angeles, which is widely recognized as the global capital of cinema and digital arts, and the driving force behind America's $300 billion in cultural exports. This is a city where one in six jobs is directly related to the creative economy....and where creativity is a prized commodity and skill set that companies actively seek in their workforce.

But when we are talking about the Creative Economy, we are talking about impact that goes beyond far beyond Los Angeles - there are significant numbers of arts-related businesses located in every state in our country, serving as economic engines in their local communities. As a matter of fact, there are 668,267 businesses in the U.S. involved in the creation or distribution of the arts according to Dun and Bradstreet. These businesses employ 2.9 million people, representing 4.05 percent of all businesses and 2.18 percent of all employees, respectively.

Those are just the arts-related businesses. We also know from the 2007 Arts and Economic Prosperity study conducted by Americans for the Arts, that nationally, the nonprofit arts and culture industry generates a stunning $166.2 billion in economic activity every year.

But in addition to those numbers, I truly believe that the arts are central to workforce development, and that it is cost-effective to invest in arts education for youth, and provide them with the skills they will need to excel in a new information age. There is no question that our rapidly evolving global economy demands a dynamic and creative workforce, and if we want America to stay competitive, we must invest in the arts to a greater degree.

Students who have the arts as part of their curriculum greatly increase their aptitude in literacy, science and math. They are far more likely to graduate high school, go to college and secure full-time employment. In the formative years, arts education and related programs reduce absenteeism and dropout rates. It greatly enhances complex problem solving, team dynamics and betters communication skills.

All of this is magnified in at-risk youth, where the arts greatly help these kids acquire the various competencies necessary to become economically self-sufficient over the long term, rather than becoming a financial strain on their states and communities. Arts-based education has been proven to lower the incidence of crime among general and at-risk populations.

Arts education is not about creating the next Jackson Pollack or Tennessee Williams, although that would be nice. Arts education is about creating the next generation of doctors and lawyers, urban planners, pilots and engineers as well as the architects of the new economies – those businesses and industries we haven’t even thought of yet.

So I firmly believe that an understanding and appreciation of the arts, and well-developed creative skills are central to the future of America’s workforce development.


Mr. Segars is Chief Executive Officer of OvationTV.  He chaired the Campaign to Save Arts Education in LAUSD in 2010, and has testified before Congress on behalf of Americans for the Arts.  For a full bio via, please click here.

Photo:  "Portrait of Ovation CEO Charles Segars," by Christina House. Used by permission from OvationTV.