Friday, February 6, 2009

Debate Over Arts Funding In Stimulus Bill

The American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009 (AKA Stimulus Bill), includes $50 million in spending for the National Endowment for the Arts. As the Boston Globe details, there is much controversy surrounding this provision.

The naysayers say:

"We have real people out of work right now and putting $50 million in the NEA and pretending that's going to save jobs as opposed to putting $50 million in a road project is disingenuous," - Representative Jack Kingston from Georgia

The advocates say:

"Hell, they've got to eat just like other people." - Roosevelt aide Harry Hopkins said when he was asked why President Franklin D. Roosevelt supported the hiring artists as part of the New Deal

"As far as I've heard, nothing has changed about the dietary needs of artists." - Dana Gioia, past NEA chairman

Whichever side of the fence you land on, it is hard to deny that the situation right now, as in previous recessions, is pretty bleak for cultural charities. It seems like everyday another museum or cultural institution announces layoffs or programmatic cuts. In fact, I just got done discussing Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell’s proposed cuts in state funding for cultural groups with a reporter from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. I told the reporter how hard it can be for elected officials to make a strong case for supporting the arts when so many of their constituents facing financial troubles of their own.

If you care about the arts, then consider showing your support by patronizing your local cultural institution this weekend. Alternatively, you may want to take up Americans for the Artscall to action or make a donation to a cultural charity.

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