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February 11, 2009

Arts are losing out in stimulus plan

It's depressing, if hardly surprising, that the anti-arts crowd on Capitol Hill has once again managed to gain the upper hand. An amendment to deny funds from the stimulus bill for any "wasteful" things like arts centers passed by an astounding 73-24 vote in the Senate the other day, and I can't imagine the House/Senate conference committee will agree to keep the $50 million for the NEA that the House version of the package included. Not when you've got a Georgia congressman suggesting that people losing jobs in the arts sector aren't actually the equivalent of "real people" losing jobs in other fields.

Seems to me the arts community is going to need a lot of big, pushy lobbyists in D.C. if the attitudes there are ever going to change.

For some thoughtful comments on the current situation, check out a column on arts-bashing from the Center for American Progress and another from Arts Journal.

Posted by Tim Smith at 4:17 PM | | Comments (3)


THe country is losing out on the stimulus plan.

According to Americans for the Arts, a $50 million investment to the National Endowment for the Arts will provide critical funding to save 14,422 jobs from being lost in the U.S. economy. This is based on the ability of the NEA to leverage $7 in additional support through local, state and private donations, for every $1 in NEA support.

There are approximately 100,000 nonprofit arts organizations, which spend $63.1 billion annually. Without an economic stimulus for the nonprofit arts industry, experts expect about 10 percent of these organizations (ranging from large arts institutions like museums and orchestras to small community-based organizations in suburban, urban and rural areas) to shut their doors in 2009 - a loss of 260,000 jobs.

While we have likely lost in this round of funding (stimulus package), we still have a President for the next 3.5 years, who values arts. We currently have a majority congress that with the right lobbying efforts, could be persuaded to fund the arts more often and more generously. But we must present the business side and show how arts deliver a strong return on taxpayer investment.

Therefore, arts organizations must start thinking and working more like a business than a non-profit. We must retain strong lobbists who can reach key legislators.

Full Article can be found at...

Thanks for posting this valuable info.Tim

I am reminded of something that the Australian author David Malouf wrote in an Australian government report on the arts in Australia from a few years back that spoke of the role of the arts in society, at this link:

It's on page 61 of the pdf, Appendix 2.1. Excerpt:

"Societies like the one we live in are complex phenomena, their parts deeply intricated, affecting one another in ways that are sometimes hard to assess; to isolate any one of them may be to misread the dynamics of the whole. This is certainly true of the arts. To see them as something ‘added’ that might also be taken away is to miss the extent to which they may be the source, as well as the product, of what we are.

The role they play in the economy is clear enough.

A large section of the working population of Australia is now employed in the arts. In the work-intensive film industry; in theatre, opera, dance, and orchestral and other musical performance, including a lively country and pop music scene. Actors, singers, dancers, circus performers, musicians, along with technicians, the many skilled artisans who work making costumes and props, administrators, and the staff of dance, drama and music schools all over the country, constitute a national resource of talent, but also of experience, that is valuable in itself for what it produces to reflect and delight us and essential for the guidance and training of those who will come after.

What is it, other than entertainment and diversion, that we take up from a theatre or dance performance, or from a night at the opera or an orchestral or chamber concert?

Such occasions are high energy events; they raise our energy level, and we take this energy back into our lives. By bringing us into contact with high achievement they make us eager for achievements of our own. We come away from them with a quickened interest in things, a deeper awareness of our own possibility and power. And all this we carry back into daily living and into the work we do as doctors, teachers, shopkeepers, architects, nurses, scientists, students, social workers, public servants. This sort of energy exchange, which is characteristic of all advanced societies, is another form of economy, what we might call the economy of energy, diffused in a thousand places where we feel its effects but do not always recognise the source. It changes our sense of ourselves and of the world. It changes the quality of our lives and the quality of what we do and make. It is one of the clearest forms of our local identity.

When we think of other places, France or Britain or Italy or the US, what comes first to our mind as characterising their contribution to the world, their identity or style, is the arts they have produced, books, paintings, films, their orchestras and opera companies, their galleries, their music. Either consciously or not, it is this that guarantees for us that the goods we buy from them, everything from high tech to clothes and perfumes and domestic appliances, will be of the highest quality, both of performance and design. Shouldn’t we assume that others will make the same assessment of us?

We have high tech and education to sell as well as wheat, wool and minerals. Mightn’t our potential customers for these sophisticated commodities be more inclined to believe in the high standard of what we have to offer if they see from the films we make, the books we produce and from what we offer in the way of theatre, opera, galleries, music, that we are a society that demands and produces work of the highest quality."

(If the excerpt is too long, it can be edited. I'm also going to post this quote in other blogs related to this topic.)

Thanks very much for sharing these excellent observations from Down Under. We sure could use this level of argument Up Here.Tim

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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