Anyone who cares about the arts needs to read this story in Sunday’s New York Times. The story offers some hope to artists and arts organizations worried about federal funding disappearing during the recession. And it mentions our very own state Sen. Richard J. Cohen as among the candidates to head up the National Endowment for the Arts.
For one, the American Recovery and Reinvestment bill includes a $50 million supplement for the NEA to dole out either directly to nonprofit arts groups or through local and state agencies such as the Minnesota State Arts Board.
Second, according to the Times, “The president is considering the establishment of an arts-and-culture portfolio within the White House’s Domestic Policy Council, according to Bill Ivey, who served as the administration’s transition-team leader for the arts and humanities, including the future of the N.E.A., the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.”
Update: Third, Cohen, long a champion of government funding for the arts in Minnesota, is mentioned among the candidate pool for the new head of the National Endowment for the Arts. Other candidates include Ivey and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis.
Fourth, the Obama transition team — which had plenty on its plate between the economy and the Middle East — found time to meet with key national-level arts executives to discuss what could be done to help artists and nonprofit arts organizations in the downturn. Arts execs see a role for culture in the economic recovery, and hopes are high for Obama to deliver on his campaign platform. Obama seems to get that artists need to eat, too.
“Much of the clamor arises from anticipation stirred by Mr. Obama’s campaign remarks about the importance of the arts,” according to the Times. “One of the few candidates with an arts platform, he called for a young ‘artist corps’ to work in low-income schools and neighborhoods; affordable health care and tax benefits for artists; and efforts at cultural diplomacy, like dispatching artist-ambassadors to other countries.”
Robert Lynch, president of Americans for the Arts, offers some stats to the Times on why more federal funding is needed: The nation’s 100,000 nonprofit arts groups employ 6 million people and contribute $167 billion to the economy. “I don’t think of this as a bailout for the arts,” he added. “It’s an economic investment in the arts.”
If the proposed $50 million federal boost were to be divided evenly by 50 states, $1 million could come in handy in Minnesota right now.
With the state facing a budget deficit, arts advocates are worried about protecting $10.2 million in government funding for the State Arts Board and regional councils, according to Minnesota Citizens for the Arts. Though the Clean Water, Land and Legacy amendment passed last year calls for a sales-tax increase to begin in July, it will take a while to accumulate the anticipated $50 million to $60 million annually for the arts, the advocacy group notes.
Meanwhile, the group urges people to show up at the Capitol on Feb. 24 for the annual Arts Advocacy Day beginning at 8 a.m.