Leading the Cathedral Arts Project for the past 20 years has provided a perfect perch from which to observe the rise of Jacksonville’s arts sector. As the sector has grown healthier, so has the quality of life for all residents, including our young students and our business sector as well. This is because the city of Jacksonville recognizes that the arts are not a luxury for the few but an essential for all that intersects with every aspect of our lives.
Jacksonville is a city that supported a ballot referendum to, in part, provide an increase in access to arts education for students under the leadership of Superintendent Greene and a school board that understands education must include the arts. Jacksonville is a city that consistently invests in the arts, including providing annual grants to 30 organizations through the Cultural Service Grant Program. In recent years, these awards have been at an increasing level thanks to Mayor Curry and our city council.
CAP’s decade-long partnership with the Kennedy Center put Jacksonville on the map as the nation’s 14th Any Given Child community. CAP continues to lead a cross-sector coalition with a shared vision for Northeast Florida to lead the nation in providing essential and accessible arts education that recognizes, grows and amplifies every child’s unique skills and strengths.
We know that having gateway experiences in the arts as a child, ideally before the pre-teen years, is critically important in cultivating sustained involvement in the arts throughout one’s lifetime. CAP has provided more than 31,000 children with year-long education in an art form through our afterschool programs alone. Afterschool arts programs save cities $9 for every $1 spent by reducing welfare and crime costs, improving academic performance and increasing children’s future earning potential. Studies show that an investment in arts education is an investment in good citizenship.
Today, Jacksonville has vibrant arts and cultural events virtually every day of the week. We boast a thriving public art program and are home to regionally and nationally acclaimed institutions, as well as artists and creatives of all types.
The future of CAP and the future of Jacksonville is brighter and bolder than ever thanks to our creative capital and the attention we are paying to the power of the arts to change lives and to change our world. As we celebrate National Arts & Humanities Month, let’s celebrate how far we have come with arts education for students in Jacksonville, knowing that the arts add up to increased graduation rates, a stronger economy and more creative individuals equipped to solve the challenges of tomorrow.
This was featured as a guest column in the Florida Times-Union.