Of Dollars and the Arts


Of Dollars and the Arts

Alice Walton needs to have a talk with state Sen. Bart Hester. She needs to explain to him the economic impact of the arts in Arkansas.

But since she’s probably pretty busy, we’ll step in.

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Hester, R-Cave Man — sorry, Cave Springs — doesn’t think the University of Arkansas at Little Rock has any business promoting its dance studies program on a billboard. Hester wrote last week on Twitter:

And that, he said, is why higher education does not need increased funding.

We’re among those hardworking Arkansans and we don’t know much about Hester. Apparently he played baseball in college. We like baseball. We think watching the Travs at Dickey Stephens Park is close to a spiritual experience. But college baseball? No, we prefer art museums and dance recitals. It takes all kinds.

Anyway, the economy is pretty good in Arkansas, but in northwest Arkansas business is absolutely booming. There are a lot of reasons for this — Walmart is a huge one — but among those reasons is Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, which Bentonville Mayor Bob McCaslin credits for transforming the area.

But it’s not alone. Americans for the Arts says that the economic impact of 23 regional artistic nonprofits in northwest Arkansas was $131 million, or almost $300 per resident, in 2015.

So let’s put aside the cultural and intellectual benefits of the arts, including dance, in Arkansas, because some people don’t have much use for cultural or intellectual pursuits. Let’s just consider money. The arts are big business in Arkansas. They keep hotels full and restaurants and bars hopping. They employ people who employ people. All of this is very good for Arkansas.

Why do you hate Arkansas, Sen. Hester?