We’ve been haranguing a lot these past couple of years on the importance of arts and culture and the role they play in making a community vibrant and sustainable. The arts should be front and center to any long term economic development plan. Unfortunately, it’s often the first thing that is cut. Not only does it not make good economic sense, a community or region loses out on the opportunities of civic engagement and social connections that revolve around the arts. There is now a National Arts Index, put out by the Americans for the Arts organization, that measures the health of the arts from 1998 – 2008, using 76 national-level indicators of arts and culture activity. The plan is to update this report every October. Hopefully, this new tool will stimulate conversation on the importance of the arts to our economy and help influence policy. Click here to download the report: www.AmericansForTheArts.org/go/ArtsIndex.