Friday, January 23, 2009

Economic Recovery and The Arts

The Arts are being discussed as part of the economic recovery. It's hard to find information about it, so below is some information I've found in the past few days. This post is long, but worth reading if you're interested.

Posted with permission:

"House Federal Stimulus Bill Proposes $50 million for the Arts; MAASH to Advocate for an Increase

Dear Friends,

US Rep. David Obey (D-WI), Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, released yesterday a proposed federal stimulus bill that includes $50 million for the arts.  The bill will be debated on the floor of the United States House of Representatives possibly as early as next week.

If included in the final passed bill, this is an important step in our history of advocacy as it shows that the United States Congress understands the important role that arts and culture plays in our nation’s economy.

Americans for the Arts have been effective in advocating for the arts to be included in the federal stimulus package.  MAASH will be visiting Washington next week to meet with representatives of the Massachusetts delegation to petition for an increase in arts spending and to include cultural facilities as stimulus eligible infrastructure projects.

The new arts spending is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill, an economic stimulus plan proposed by the House to spend $825 billion for economic recovery, divided into $275 billion in tax cuts and $550 billion in spending.

To facilitate quick implementation, Congressional leaders are looking to existing programs and guidelines to allocate the money.  Consequently, the $50 million, if passed, will be disbursed through the National Endowment for the Arts under existing guidelines.

Under those guidelines 40% of the funds will pass directly to the state arts agencies such as the Massachusetts Cultural Council and 60% will be available under the competitive grant process.

The Senate has yet to release its version of the proposed federal stimulus package.  MAASH will be meeting with representatives in the offices of Senator Kennedy and Kerry to urge that the Senate include similar language and greater arts funding.

The proposed language in the House bill follows:

“For an additional amount for ‘‘Grants and Administration’’, $50,000,000, to be distributed in direct grants to fund arts projects and activities which preserve jobs in the non-profit arts sector threatened by declines in philanthropic and other support during the current economic downturn: Provided, That 40 percent of such funds shall be distributed to State arts agencies and regional arts organizations in a manner similar to the agency’s current practice and 60 percent of such funds shall be for competitively selected arts projects and activities according to sections 2 and 5(c) of the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities Act of 1965.”

Sincerely, Dan Hunter (Executive Director) and Hathalee Higgs (Development Director), Massachusetts Associates for the Arts, Sciences and Humanities (MAASH) on January 22, 2009.

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Also, check out the Americans for the Arts' nine recommendations in "Economic Recovery & the Arts" (PDF doc) on their website.

Quoting the first paragraph:

"The arts mean jobs and tremendous economic activity in America and must be part of our country’s economic recovery. Nationally, 100,000 nonprofit arts organizations are members of the business community—employing people locally, purchasing goods and services within the community, and involved in the marketing and promotion of their cities and communities. Nonprofit arts organizations and their audiences generate $166.2 billion in economic activity every year, support 5.7 million jobs, and return nearly $30 billion in government revenue every year—proving that the arts are an economic driver in their communities that support jobs and generate government revenue. Every $1 billion in spending by nonprofit arts and culture organizations – and their audiences – results in almost 70,000 full-time-equivalent jobs." Read more.

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There are people who don't understand how the arts can affect the economy, as per this quote I found from Appropriations Ranking Member Jerry Lewis, R-Calif:

"I'm scratching my head trying to determine how items like $50 million in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts will create jobs or provide relief for families across the country," Lewis said." (from

I urge all artists, arts organizations, and arts supporters, to pay attention to what happens with the Arts part of the Stimulus Bill, and to contact their elected officials as needed.