Henri Matisse at MoMA arts

By supporting the arts, you’re contributing to a lasting part of the human experience.

Why should you support the arts? Aren’t there better causes to donate to? Well, sure, you could argue that cancer research, fighting homelessness, or any number of other issues are more deserving of your money, but the arts are quite important too.

Art is part of culture, and whether you’re helping to preserve existing art, or helping an artist create something new, you’re contributing to a lasting part of the human experience. Art, literature, architecture, and music are some of the ways in which humans preserve their history and transmit their culture to subsequent generations. The arts are so important that during World War II, the Allies setup a special group to track down and preserve art stolen by the Nazis or damaged during the fighting. Called the Monuments Men, these soldiers put their lives at risk to save paintings, statues, and even buildings, to help preserve the cultural legacy of Europe.

Okay, so preventing the Nazis from destroying the cultural heritage of western civilization might be important, but what about art at a local scale? Do you need to support local artists as long as the Mona Lisa is safe? According to the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture, “arts and culture is an essential asset in building and sustaining a vibrant, thriving community.” CPAC believes that art helps to make communities better, by helping those communities to grow intellectually and culturally. Local artists help to beautify cities and local architects design parks, musicians and poets put the spirit of the times into words. Maybe that local mural isn’t the Mona Lisa, but Leonardo needed support in order to create too. Maybe that local musician will end up winning a Grammy, or that local slam poet could end up poet laureate.

Supporting arts and culture, at the local, state, national, and international levels, is an investment in the future of human culture. Chances are any large city will have an arts council or other nonprofit you can support, and if you can’t find one, maybe consider starting one.