This letter was submitted to LebTown. Read our submission policy here.
Bloomberg recently conducted a study of the main cities in the United States that suffer from the sociological problem of the “brain drain.”
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, brain drain means “the departure of educated or professional people from one country, economic sector, or field for another usually for better pay or living conditions.”
In this study, Lebanon tops the list of cities that suffer from this issue. But why is that, and how can we fix it?
A brain drain is caused by the inability of people seeking white-collar jobs to find a place to work in the area they live in, which leads to the need to move somewhere where they can find work and make a living.
“Okay Amaury, but what can we do to fix this issue?” Initially, we have to look at the driving forces that make people decide where they want to live, what private investors are looking for, and what kind of culture fosters progress in an area.
One of the answers to fixing the issue of brain drain is making art a priority within the city government. “The arts and cultural sector contributed $804.2 billion or 4.3 percent to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016.” The National Endowment of the Arts confirmed this data. In communities where their local government makes art a priority for their people, not only do their economies thrive, but socially speaking, the mental and physical wellbeing of their constituents is better.
I recently submitted a proposal to the city government and explained all the benefits of creating an arts commission to this community. The mission of such a commission that would be appointed by the mayor is to advocate for arts policy, create access for unbiased participation in the arts and develop a space where all residents can participate in the arts and the benefit that it brings to communities.
When I made the proposal, I was faced only with pushback and excuses like “We are not a city like Lancaster or Philadelphia” and “We already have a Lebanon Arts Council.”
My response to those two arguments is this, yes, we are not like those cities, but that is not an excuse not to push to become better than we currently are. Secondly, the Lebanon Arts Council would benefit from having government representation by having a group of individuals advocating and bringing unity to the art community in this area.
Lancaster’s public art advisory board explains why they have a public art department for their city: “Public art attracts and sustains community participation by breaking down barriers and allowing for expression. All of these things lead to stronger neighborhoods and increased quality of life. When working towards a better Lancaster City, artful practices and public art boost our efforts. Public art allows communities to gain cultural, social, and economic value, and enhances meaning in the civic spaces of these communities.”
We can benefit from having something like that in Lebanon City and while the Lebanon Valley Council on the Arts is supposed to be the organization who advocates for art programing in the city, they are not doing so. I want to ask our city government to create a public arts department which will help the city become a thriving place of social and economic progress.
The data is clear, the need is visible, Lebanon City does not need excuses, scapegoating or finger-pointing, Lebanon City needs solutions. Sadly, some of our city officials only have a reactive approach to things and not a proactive one. This encounter is why I want to publicly ask the residents of Lebanon City and Lebanon County, who support this idea, to reach out to the mayor and city council members and express your support for the creation of the arts commission. We need to make art a priority for this city, we need to offer solutions, and we need to stop the brain drain.
Please email Sherry Capello asking for the creation of a public arts advisory board and help Lebanon become a city where economic and social development can really happen.
Amauary Abreu is an aspiring entrepreneur and social activist who lives in Lebanon.