More Art Not Less: City Council Testimony by Gerald Veasley, President, Jazz Philadelphia

June 9, 2020
Re: Testimony on Bill number 200307
Gerald Veasley
President, Jazz Philadelphia

Good afternoon members of City Council; thank you for this opportunity to offer testimony on Bill number 200307 and the proposed budget which would defund the Office of Arts Culture and the Creative Economy. I recognize the difficult decisions you must face in balancing the needs of our city in a time of crisis. However, as a musician, arts leader, and proud lifelong Philadelphia resident, I am deeply concerned about how this defunding will impact our great city.

I submit now is the time to invest in the arts; we need more art not less. The arts will play an essential role in our city’s economic and emotional recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and from social upheaval. 

The administration’s priorities in the proposed budget are sound: keeping Philadelphians educated, healthy, and safe. In fact, the arts play a central role in all three categories. In my nearly 40 years of experience as a musician and educator, and in my role as President of Jazz Philadelphia where we are committed to advancing our arts community, I have seen how the arts make students intellectually curious, keep adults emotionally healthy and help to create neighborhoods that are not only safe but vibrant places to live.

We need more art not less.

If we want our city’s youth to be better educated, invest in the arts. Students involved in the arts perform better academically, have lower dropout rates and higher SAT scores. The OACCE reaches thousands of youth throughout our city. Now’s not the time to disinvest in our youth.

We need more art not less.

If we want people in our city to be healthy, invest in the arts. After battling a pandemic in fear and isolation, people will need the arts to help restore their emotional well being. Armed with songs, stories, and images, artists will be the next wave of “first responders” tending to damaged souls.

We need more art not less.

If we want a safe city, invest in the arts. The arts give voice to the voiceless. We are witnessing a generation that has grown impatient with our institutions’ capacity to hear them. The arts represent a constructive medium of self-expression. OACCE takes art to the underserved and to the voiceless. Invest in it.

 We need more art not less 

Finally, as you think about investing in the arts, consider the return on that investment. The arts have a $4.1B impact in the Greater Philadelphia region. The arts sector is at the heart of a thriving ecosystem: restaurants, hospitality, tourism – are all touched by art. 

Other cities continue to invest in the arts, even as they grapple with the same crises and shrinking revenue. But if you examine the proposed budgets of cities like Boston, Nashville, San Antonio, Atlanta, and Houston and you will see cities that remain committed to the arts. Even when there are budget cuts there is not another major city that has completely defunded its arts and culture office.

We are indeed a great city and as such we must not be tempted by the challenges of the present to disinvest in our future. I implore you to restore funding to the Office of the Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy. Invest in our city, in its neighborhoods, in the underserved, in communities of color, in our youth. Let’s remain committed to the education, health, and safety of all Philadelphians. Invest in our future – we need more art not less. 

Thank you.

2 Comments on “More Art Not Less: City Council Testimony by Gerald Veasley, President, Jazz Philadelphia

  1. Thank you again Gerald. I will be sharing this on my Facebook page to spread the word, “We need more art not less.”

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