Go Local: Why You Should Support Local Art
Supporting local businesses is so much more than just a tagline for a bumper sticker. When it comes to local artists and local art galleries, it’s important to remember that art doesn’t exist in a vacuum — it’s a two-way street, an exchange between artist and audience that has rippling positive impacts on the individuals and the communities surrounding them. It doesn’t cost a thing to step into a local gallery, but it pays off in spades.
It Fosters Community
So much of art centers around the ideas of cultural exchange and understanding, both of which are incredibly important factors in communities as diverse as those across the United States. Simply put, locally made art — perhaps more than any other format — helps us understand and empathize with one another.
More than that, local art helps cultivate a sense of cultural identity. As the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce reminds us, members of the community often see themselves reflected in local art or feel welcomed into these social spaces, cultivating a sense of respect for both self and place. That sense of belonging is a powerful thing.
It’s Good for the Economy
Truth be told, saying that local art is “good for the economy” is kind of an understatement. According to Americans for the Arts, the economic impact of the nonprofit arts and culture industry in the US accounts for over $63 billion total direct expenditures from organizations and more than $102 billion from audiences each year. These sectors are responsible for the creation of about 4.6 million jobs. And as for the local scene? Nonlocal audiences spend $47.57 for every $23.44 locals spend on performing and visual arts organizations, festivals, public art programs, museums and arts centers.
It’s little wonder, then, that community-facing art programs often do so much to reinvigorate communities across the country. In a review of successful initiatives nationwide, the Project for Public Spaces notes that these economic boosts work hand in hand with promoting interaction in public spaces, job creation, engaging youth groups, fostering alliances between art and business and attracting thousands of visitors and locals alike. The same source points out that about two-thirds of travelers include cultural activities on their itineraries.
It Just Plain Helps People
When you purchase a painting, buy a glass of wine at a reception or leave cash in a donation box, it’s clear that you’re improving the life of an artist in a meaningful and direct way. Some of the ways in which supporting local artists and local art galleries betters lives aren’t quite as apparent, but they’re equally imperative.
When you support local art, be it by a gallery purchase or otherwise, you support local art culture. And the Lincoln City Cultural Center sums up just some of the ways that the presence of art in the community helps people.
For instance, when young people engage with art, it can improve their employability, double their chances of volunteering, increase their chances of voting by 20%, bolster their cognitive abilities, and increase the likelihood of getting a college degree for those from low-income families. It works on the other side of the age spectrum, too; frequent engagement with art and culture among seniors leads to greater levels of subjective well-being, including positive effects on conditions such as depression, dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
Do It for You
Fostering communities and local economies isn’t just a good thing, it’s fulfilling on a personal level. In that way, participating in the local art scene is a form of self-care. Scripps details the numerous therapeutic benefits of getting involved in art, including reducing stress, stimulating the brain in a way that can encourage creative thinking and improve memory, easing anxiety and producing that all-important, feel-good hormone dopamine.
Plus, when you buy local rather than opting for mass-produced art, you’ll own a piece that is 100% unique, unlike any other artwork on the planet. And that’s priceless.
Visiting your local gallery — and better yet, buying a piece — isn’t the only way to lift art and artists in local communities. Oakland’s revered nonprofit educational center, The Crucible, also suggests taking some of the following steps:
Purchasing local art online, whether from your locality or from local art galleries in other communities
Ordering a commission from a local artist (your local gallery can help connect you)
Attending in-person or online events hosted by local art galleries, artists and organizations
Promoting and platforming local artists, organizations, events and galleries on social media
As Thad Mighell from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver tells Artwork Archive, “People from this generation know that their dollars have buying power, so they’re trying to buy from meaningful sources and establish a personal connection with artists.” We’d add that purchasing from local galleries exercises more than just buying power; it exercises community power.
Alongside experience as a graphic designer and on-set art director, Dan Ketchum is a northeast-LA-based culture, media and food writer of 12 years, with publishers including Ashford University, Salon.com, The Seattle Times and USA Today.