Here in the US, Congressional Democrats have reversed not one but both bad decisions on the role of the arts in the economic stimulus package. Provisions that would have blocked any stimulus funds from reaching arts centers, museums, and theaters have been dropped. (Golf courses and casinos are still in the ban. Maybe this time, someone read the actual legislation.) And the US$50 million (out of some $800 billion) that would go to the National Endowment for the Arts, dropped from a Senate version, has been restored to the bill. It appears both of those changes not only cleared the House but are part of the Senate version that’s in votes as I write this.

If you believe artists shouldn’t rely exclusively on government funding, you can still celebrate. The arts will receive far less of a handout than a lot of other industries — and do more with it. Arts advocacy groups estimate that for every dollar of the NEA money, another seven dollars will come from public and private supporters. What the tiny amount of federal spending does is make up for shortfalls in lean times, protecting an arts sphere that depends on a variety of sources for revenue. Nearly 15,000 real jobs could be saved by those same estimates. That means an arts infrastructure in the US that can remain healthy and independent.

But the important story here has nothing to do with the stimulus bill, or even the US. It’s that public outcry from people like you rescued this legislation. And if public support can do that, it can do a lot more for the arts, not only in federal spending but other key areas.

Americans for the Arts says supporters from its organization alone sent some 100,000 messages and letters to their Members of Congress. That’s not counting the many more letters and phone calls from constituents, not to mention letters to the editor and press attention.

Here’s one example from CDM comments, by Dartanyan Brown:

I heard the congressman from Nashville (!) talking down the $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts. I immediately called his office and let his staffers know that (blue dog democrat Cooper) was full of hot air on this issue. As a synthesist, jazz musician and former NEA artist-in-residence I had the facts and anecdotes to make my points clear.
If Rush Limbaugh can get his folks to call, we can at least counteract them with some facts and persistence.
Call them, they listen, they respond to numbers.

More background on today’s developments:
House passes stimulus bill with $50 million for artists [Los Angeles Times]
U.S. Senate Begins Voting on Obama’s $787 Billion Stimulus Plan [Bloomberg, including various other details]

To all of you who were active, and to our elected representatives who got this right, thanks.

Targeting the arts in this way may have backfired for those elements seeking to vilify it. Instead, it caused thousands of people to rally to the cause. Here’s an example of organizing meetings in Chicago – and a renewed sense that the arts could be part of the economic solution, not the “costly distraction” so many try to make it out to be.
Organizing around art [Chicago Tribune]

  • Wow, I'm amazed and elated by this news! I don't have much else to say other than this is a nice way to kick off the weekend 🙂

  • awesome.

  • samu

    Great news. Transatlantic congratulations to all those who made it happen.

  • Hey Peter,

    Thanks for being on point on this one. It seems so much is changing in our culture right now, it's scary and exciting at the same time. This latest, however, is very good news indeed.

    At any rate, you've been on top of this issue in particular, and I appreciate it.

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  • I'm sooo excited!!!!
    Its time for some change

  • Wendell


  • Brother Dartanyan Brown sent me your way. Yes, much to celebrate, still miles to go in gaining recognition of the artist as contributor to the economy, education, the cultural "infrastructure" of our nation.

    I'm spearheading the "National Campaign to Hire Artists to Work in Schools," which will continue to labor to get federal stimulus money to hire artists to work in schools and other social institutions as the billions cascade down to the states and localities in the coming weeks and months.

    We're also monitoring, praising and participating in the upcoming hearings before Congressman George Miller's House Education and Labor Committee on the impact of the arts and artists on the economy and education.

    Visit our Facebook group under the full Campaign name or See the recent video endorsement by Tony Award-winning actor, Bill Irwin.


  • bliss
  • Shane

    Does your art not make enough money on it's own to support itself without confiscating, by way of force, other peoples money to subsidize something that people wouldn't otherwise willingly pay for? That money was also taken from artists who pay taxes from profits thier art earned, which they may have been able to reinvest in themselves and thier own artworks/forms had the government not taken it for redistribution and social engineering, also, if the goovernment is paying you for your art, you are not free and niether is your art. If art relies on a government hand out for survival then it might as well die.

  • Annoyed Libertarian

    Is this really going to become yet another annoying, divisive political blog? Is there no escape from this bullshit?

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  • Shane

    @ Annoyed Libertarian…
    Then give all your money to another artist.
    This isn't about party or politics, its about property rights…
    better yet, give your songs to another musician to perform and profit from, then the feds can confiscate his money and give it to some other lobbying "artist coalition"
    get real