When was the last time you paid art forward?

It's not just fun. It's the right thing to do.

When was the last time you paid for art?

Anything — a dance concert. A movie. A painting to hang in your bathroom.

And was that at the direct-to-artist level? A print from a limited run? A play with real-life actors in the same space, breathing the same air as you? A street performer?


And when was the last time you paid art forward?

What if the next time you paid for a theater ticket, someone who worked at that theater didn't go out and spend that money on beer (not that beer isn't an art form) but instead took it and bought a handcrafted necklace? And then the person who made the necklace paid the cover to hear a local musician and picked up their CD?


See how happy this street performer is making people? Image via Thinkstock.

Art and culture generate a lot more money than you might think.

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and National Endowment for the Arts did a study to figure out how much arts and culture really matter in the U.S. economy. The result? Arts and culture make up about 3.2% of GDP. That's half a trillion dollars.

That's more than travel and tourism.


These white-hot grease fires of entertainment are fueling the national economy. Image via Thinkstock.

And this is even with most of us not spending that much, individually, on art. Sure, maybe you went to the multiplex to catch "The Fast and the Furious: 18" or whatever number they're on now. Maybe you downloaded some music from iTunes and paid actual money for it.

But in our day-to-day, most of us don't spend that much money on art.

And very, very few of us are dropping Benjamins on small-scale or locally-produced art. Money that you spend at a local level has a much bigger effect than money that goes to a massive corporation.

She is not paying for art. Not cool, lady. Image via Thinkstock.

About $48 out of every $100 that you spend at a local gallery stays in your community.

For comparison, only $14 out of $100 you drop picking up a mass-produced decorative piece at a big-box store sticks around. Money staying in your community is a good thing. It generates jobs and prosperity as well as that unique local flavor.

Photos by Audrey Busta-Peck. Used with permission.

My friends Christopher and Audrey are amazing supporters of local art. They take their kids to gallery openings and actually buy paintings instead of just mooching on the free wine and cheese. They even commissioned some house numbers from local neon sculptor Jeff Chiplis. They integrate art into their daily lives.

The good folks at The Seeing Place Theater challenge you (and me) to be like Christopher and Audrey: Spend $20 on art and encourage everyone else who handles that bill after you to do the same.

All you have to do is write, "Use this for art," on a $20 and then go ... do that. Support a local orchestra. Buy a CD the next time you see a musician in a downtown dive. Heck, go commission something. That Jackson will circulate and maybe the next person who touches it will think, "Hm. Actually, I will spend this on art."

And make your community, and your economy, better.

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