LETTER: The arts contribute to local economy
To the Editor:
Recently, Commissioner Jim Womack stated his belief that multicultural arts programs do not add value to the community and thus should not receive county funding. An interested person need only do a quick search to find numerous studies refuting that claim and demonstrating the social, intellectual and cultural benefits of the arts — especially for children. However, since the focus is on the budget, let's take a minute to think about what happens when a person comes to view a show at Temple Theatre. In addition to the ticket purchase, the person grabs a bite to eat before or after the show, may fuel up a car, and, since the theater is near interesting shops, likely spends some time shopping at local merchants.
In addition, Temple attracts talent from all over the state to perform in its top-notch shows. These actors reside in Sanford while they work on a performance, which means in the weeks leading up to the show and during the length of the show's run, these individuals shop, eat, fuel up and conduct financial transactions in Sanford — adding more money to the county coffers.
Temple also offers phenomenal programs for youth — including two summer conservatories, Temple Teens and a year-round Temple Academy. Parents driving their children to and from these events shop, eat and fuel their cars in Lee County. I know this firsthand because I personally drive my daughter 70 miles round trip just to participate in Temple's programs and shows. During the past year, we have spent a lot of time and money in Sanford — money that Lee County would not have seen had it not been for our trips to Temple.
In a time of fiscal challenges, it always makes sense to look at how money is being spent and consider how best to allocate it going forward. However, these decisions should be made based on reasoned arguments and actual data, not the whims and prejudices of a select few. I implore the commissioners to take a balanced, rational and fair approach when deciding how to allocate funding for nonprofits in the forthcoming budget session, and to do their part to help keep Temple Theatre a thriving member of the Sanford community.