I am Deb Clapp, Executive Director of the League of Chicago Theatres. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak. I am here today on behalf of our 237 member theatres in Chicagoland, ranging, geographically as far north as Waukegan and Gurnee, as far west as Woodstock and Aurora, as far South as Chicago Heights and as far east as Navy Pier. I believe that the arts are essential to who we are as human beings, that the arts are not a luxury but a necessity for a functional society. The arts are at the core of what makes a community not just livable, but vital. We are fortunate to have a Governor who is a strong advocate for the arts. We have a multitude of world class arts organizations operating in Illinois, we have, according to such publications as Time Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the London Guardian, the most vibrant and innovative theatre community in the country. My vision for the arts in Chicago and in Illinois is that we become the leader in arts innovation, that through the arts the Citizens of Illinois are enriched not only through the economic impact that the arts provide but through the impact on creativity, knowledge, ingenuity, resourcefulness and originality. My vision is that Illinois becomes the state of creativity, applying creative solutions to challenges that seem insurmountable.
I believe that the Illinois Arts Council can help to achieve the vision of Illinois as a state of creativity through a program of intensive advocacy for the arts. Each and every representative in the house and senate of Illinois should understand what the arts bring to their communities; they should be made aware of the social and the economic impact of the arts in their districts. Each representative should be proud of their investment in and the impact of the arts. I imagine a future in which representatives are fighting over arts organizations moving into their districts as they do now over corporations, because they understand the impact of the arts on business, on quality of life and on our children. The Arts Council can make this happen through education efforts.
The sustainability of our arts organizations is of paramount importance for us to achieve this vision. The Illinois Arts Council makes sustainability possible through investment in the arts via general operating grants. In an economic climate in which sources of support for the arts and the vital programming our organizations provide is dwindling, support in the form of general operating grants provide arts organizations and artists with an essential form of support. These grants literally pay the bills; these grants give our artists the ability and the freedom to create. While project grants might seem sexier and while it might be easier to measure the direct impact of such grants, I would argue that such grants actually can hamper the effectiveness of arts organizations by compromising their sustainability and their capacity. Investment by the State of Illinois in general operating grants is an investment in the future of our artists and our communities. Further, I would recommend that to increase the sustainability of our arts organizations, that the Arts Council offer multi-year support, grants for three or more years so that organizations can count on that support and be free to make their own investment in greater creativity and innovation.
Public funding for the arts should be supported because as John F Kennedy said, “Aeschylus and Plato are remembered today long after the triumphs of Imperial Athens are gone. Dante outlived the ambitions of thirteenth century Florence. Goethe stands serenely above the politics of Germany, and I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we too will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.” JFK said that in support of the National Cultural Center that would come to bear his name. I understand that there are difficult choices to be made in the public arena in these most difficult times, but I say invest in creativity, in innovation, in ingenuity, but most of all invest in the human spirit. Let’s not be remembered for what we cut, let’s be remembered for what we held on to against all odds, let’s be remembered for being the state of creativity and for our contributions to the human spirit.