By John Ceballos
The Ledger, Lakeland, Fla.
Jay Dick realizes that when most people think of “the arts,” they usually picture an old lady with opera glasses taking in a grand performance from her balcony seat.
“My job here is to get you to think a little differently about the arts and the creative economy,” said Dick, senior director of state and local government affairs at Americans for the Arts. “The arts are so much more. The arts are afterschool gang prevention programs, they help soldiers with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.
“There is a huge amount of things that are part of the economy that feature artists.”
Dick was one of five keynote speakers during the second annual Sm(ART) Business Symposium on Friday at Southeastern University’s Bush Chapel.
He cited a 2013 study from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, which revealed that arts and culture production was a $699 billion a year industry and represented about 4.3 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. That percentage outpaced industries such as transportation, agriculture, and construction.
According to data collected by Americans for the Arts, Polk County has 972 arts-related businesses that employ 2,465 workers.
“Unlike businesses that you have to entice to come into and settle in your county, you already have 972 businesses here that are operating every day,” Dick said. “They’re real jobs, and they’re doing a lot of great things.
“We just have to recognize and try to support them a little bit.”
The Sm(ART) Business Symposium is a partnership between the Polk Arts Alliance — the county’s designated arts agency — and Southeastern University.
“This event is really a significant part of our DNA at the university,” said Kent Ingle, Southeastern’s president. “Perhaps now more than ever in our history, there is a real need for innovative leadership because our world is changing so fast.”