Community recovery in the aftermath of disasters—such as the major hurricanes, fires, and floods in August and September—is a crucial challenge, and the arts have a strong role to play. At a local, state, and federal level, decisionmakers must remember that the arts and creative workers are crucial to the successful economic and emotional reconstruction of communities devastated by disasters—but are often as profoundly impacted by these events as other small businesses, and have a more difficult time receiving funding and resources to both rebound and participate in community recovery in the aftermath.
The long-term effects on the economies of Houston and other areas affected by Hurricane Harvey—particularly on the $1.1 billion cultural tourism sector—will continue until arts and culture in the community rebound. This will be the case in the communities impacted by Hurricane Irma, as well, and for other future disasters. Beyond that, the cultural fabric of the impacted communities will remain frayed. This is bad for the community, bad for the economy, and bad for the stability and harmony of those whose lives are already so disrupted.
Americans for the Arts calls on local, state, and federal decisionmakers and government agencies—particularly FEMA and the Small Business Administration—to recognize the crucial role of arts and cultural organizations and workers, and to prioritize immediate and streamlined disaster relief assistance so that they may fulfill their role as healing nexus points for affected communities. While it is always paramount to assist in survival when disaster hits, after the basic needs of health, food, and shelter are met, the cultural and civic assets of a community must come into focus, and their preservation and reconstruction is just as paramount and deserves just as much attention and support.