Recent threatened cuts to the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and PBS have sent ripples of concern through the Arts communities across the U.S. Each budget cycle, funding to the Arts and Humanities erodes. While individual giving and private foundations have stepped up to the plate to help fill the gap, many communities across the U.S., particularly smaller and rural communities, suffer due to lack of these resources.
It is critical to recognize the many ways in which Culture and the Arts make an impact within communities, both to quality of life and to economic development. We should never forget that the Arts are Everywhere, and the Arts are for Everyone. They enrich communities in which they thrive, in so many ways.
About the National Endowment for the Arts
- National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) – Established by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 to “level the playing field,” and make the Arts more accessible to every American. It was founded to “nurture American creativity, to elevate the nation’s culture, and to sustain and preserve the country’s many artistic traditions.”
“If you want to understand Johnson’s cultural agenda, you have to see it not as an appendage but integrally related to the War on Poverty and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” (Philip Kennicott)
- For 20 years, federal arts funding was stable. Under Ronald Reagan, the Arts found themselves under attack, which continues to this day.
- In 1995, under Clinton, the NEA budget and its staff was cut by 50%, disproportionately affecting minority and disadvantaged communities.
- As of 2012, revenue for the arts consists of:
- Individual giving – $13 billion annually or 42 % of the total. (An inflation-adjusted increase of 67 percent since 1995).
- Earned income (i.e. ticket sales and subscriptions) – $12.7 billion,or 41% of total revenue at $12.7 billion (up 37 percent since 1995, in adjusted dollars).
- Private foundation – $4 billion, or 13 % (Up 56 percent since 1995).
- Public Sources (as of 2014) – $1.2 billion, or 4%.
While funding has increased numerically, it has not kept up with inflation, leading to a decrease of around 26 percent in public art grant money since 1995.
- Minority, disenfranchised, and rural communities lack wealthy patrons to cultivate as donors. Therefore, Arts organizations will suffer if the public-funding system that was helping them build capacity, gain cultural legitimacy, and become sustainable is defunded and/or eliminated.
- The arts help create community and foster cross-cultural understanding. Because large individual donors and corporate funders traditional support large institutions, which reach a tiny slice of the American population, the National Endowment for the Arts must be strengthened and funding increased, not reduced.
- The NEA does what no other funder does, public or private: It provides funding to communities in all 50 states and five U.S. jurisdictions. The geographic, demographic, and income diversity among the NEA’s grant recipients is unmatched by any other U.S. funder.
- The NEA’s Challenge America program reaches underserved communities, regardless of geography, ethnicity, economics, or disability. Half of all NEA grants are awarded to institutions in poverty-stricken neighborhoods, and more than half of their grantees are small arts organizations.
- Forty percent of the NEA’s grant-making funds are delivered at the local level through partnership agreements with 60 different state arts agencies and regional arts organizations.
The Value of the Arts from a Community Perspective
- Individual Development – “Arts and culture are building blocks of personal agency and voice. They spur creativity and imagination; stimulate empathy and help people make meaning; enlarge tolerance for complexity; deepen cross-cultural understanding; encourage discipline and teamwork; contribute to a sense of personal mastery; and improve performance in other fields. Learning the arts, particularly learning to make art in any form, generates significant cognitive, emotional and social benefits, particularly for young people. So does learning and participation in the humanities and sciences. These benefits are cumulative. Isolated experiences rarely have substantial effects. One person we interviewed expressed the view we heard from many others: “Participating in the arts has changed my life. It opened the door to something I didn’t know existed.” Another amplified this concept: “We have seen the arts save kids’ lives and give adults renewed sense of purpose. It’s real.”
- Quality of Life – Arts and culture contribute to building local identity and pride of place. They aid the development of both social capital, which builds connections among people within communities, and bridging capital, which creates links between different communities. Arts and culture can improve public safety and business climate; and they can animate community spaces and neighborhood life. Arts and culture propel aspirations and pathways toward social mobility; and they contribute to communities’ physical and psycho-social well-being. Referring to a youth theater program in her neighborhood, a grandmother in one of our focus groups noted, “Somalis, Italians, Chinese, African-Americans. All their kids participate and all their parents come out for performances. Nothing else brings us together like that.” A woman from another neighborhood praised the effects of a public art project: “It had a galvanizing effect on the neighborhood that nothing else did; it brought everyone out, and connected us in new ways; it helps define our neighborhood.”
- Economic Impact – The arts are a major pillar of our nation’s culture and economy. In January 2015, the Bureau of Economic Analysis determined that the arts and cultural industries contribute $698 billion to our economy each year and support 4.7 million full-time jobs.
- Federal Support: For every one dollar the United States spends on federal arts initiatives, nine non-federal dollars are leveraged, generating roughly $600 million in matching support. Investing in the arts is essential to creating jobs and boosting our economy. Not only do the arts support millions of jobs in our country, but many studies have shown that students who study the arts perform significantly better in school.