The Arts Matter Because...

Edited by Paulette Beete
An African-American man in a Marine uniform holds his son in an art museum with artworks in the background

Marine Sgt. Jimmy Ochan and his son William tour the Phillips Collection at the 2015 Blue Star Museums Launch. Photo by James Kegley

We know that, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, 3.2 percent or $504 billion of current-dollar Gross Domestic Product in 2011 was attributable to arts and culture. But beyond the numbers, we know the arts matter for a wholly human reason--they illuminate, they console, they articulate. In short, they help us to explore and express the wonderfully messy business of being human. We've gathered just a few quotes from previously published Art Talks to give voice to the many reasons why the arts matter. We encourage you to browse the Art Works blog to read and hear even more from artists and cultural leaders about the power of the arts.

“The arts matter because they saved my life.” — Katori Hall, playwright

“It's our life. The reason why I say, 'It's our life,' is because a lot of people, we do a job to make money, to have food on the table, but the arts, it feeds our soul and it's the soul that keeps us going on.” — Sherri Young, African American Shakespeare Company

“Because they are a place where we reflect the world around us, and it's the one place that anybody can do that, honestly and, hopefully, in an uncensored way.” — Jonathan Bailey Holland, composer

“Art enlarges our human sympathies; it is in fact what makes us fully human. A life without art would be reptilian.” — Enriqueta Carrington, NEA Literature Translation Fellow

“Art is the most profound way in which a group of people can understand their culture and other cultures. Somehow art gets at the soul of who we are as a people. It transcends race, class, and gender. It transcends sexual orientation. It transcends history. It transcends war. It, for me, is the only thing that truly is eternal. Histories get rewritten and changed. They get buried. But art, for some reason, manages to remain untainted.” — Marcus Gardley, playwright

“I think it's extremely important to be well rounded and exercise both sides of your brain, and I think sometimes if you build the creative part, you need that in the scientific part as well. So just exercising that part of your brain and using it I think can be beneficial, especially if you're in a scientific field. Plus it can do different things for you. For me it relaxes me a little bit. It's just something different, it's doing something different than I do every day at work.” — Karen Nyberg, astronaut and quilter

“Art matters because it informs our world. Be it in graphic design, fine art painting, murals; it will state the state of things, whether we see it or not…. I think that there's power in art, politically, socially, culturally. And so I think art is power.” — Gregg Deal, visual artist

"Art matters because it is a hate-killer. Art matters because it is the one true great connector in a world that seems to be very unconnected, and it's important now more than ever to shine a huge light on that connectivity that we have, that we often forget." — Josh Groban, singer and composer

Why do the arts matter to you? Visit to share your arts story with us to help celebrate our 50th anniversary.