By Emma Dugal

October is National Arts and Humanities month. Gov. Gary Herbert has also declared October Arts and Humanities month in Utah. Why are arts, museums, and humanities so important that they would have a whole month dedicated to them?

The humanities, museums, and arts give a community its distinct and recognizable character. They transform lives and give people a sense of belonging and connecting. Utah is first in the nation for the number of people attending live performances per capita. From large, nationally known arts organizations to small community theaters, museums and venues throughout the state, Utah is home to a thriving list of places and events that bring people together to enjoy the arts. Hundreds of galleries, museums and art events dot the state and provide accessibility to the visual arts. Festivals abound in Utah and murals grace numerous buildings. Visit NowPlayingUtah.com for comprehensive and up to date info about events happening across the state.

The cultural sector in Utah employs thousands of people and has a huge economic impact. 111,919 Utahns work in the creative industries. They earned $4.5 billion in earnings and generated $16 billion in sales. Indeed, $327 million has come back to the state of Utah through sales tax from creative industries transactions.

It has long been established that school children learn better and their cognitive skills are enhanced when they are engaged in the arts. School art programs, whether they be music, dance, theatre or visual arts are paramount to providing a sense of belonging and increased self-esteem and identity.

The humanities open up understanding about the human experience, engage people and strengthen communities. Learning the stories of others is motivational and inspires us to dialogue and enlarge our own stories as we connect to others. Utah Humanities has been in operation since 1975, engaging thousands of people to consider how the world is experienced and documented. The annual Book Festival is going on now through October 31. http://www.utahhumanities.org

Utah Cultural Alliance (UCA) is a source that can connect you to the arts and humanities and creative industries in Utah. Since 1980, UCA has advocated for, and amplifies the arts and humanities because it believes that they are crucial to empowering and strengthening our communities, providing personal growth and expression and elevating the lives of people of all ages. For more info: www.utahculturalalliance.org. UCA is a 501c4 advocacy organization, and I am the board chair of our affiliated 501c3, Utahns for Culture which collects data demonstrating the importance of humanities, museums, and arts.

I encourage all to engage in the arts, museums, and humanities. Go to a play, take an art class, read a book, attend a lecture, performance, festival or art gallery exhibit opening. Visit a museum, write something, create art with a child, learn to play an instrument, dance, sing, explore, celebrate and create. Connecting to one another through the arts and humanities fulfills a basic human need. The arts, museums, and humanities provide a deep anchor to our history and a springboard to a brighter and more meaningful future.

Emma J Dugal is the Utahns for Culture (the 501c3 arm of Utah Cultural Alliance) board chair (retired). Emma resides in Bountiful, Utah.

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