In a time when our economy is in a volatile state, we worry about maintaining the arts at all levels. On the local level, schools face budget cuts each year, and many public schools are losing funds for their arts programs. Most of the arts programs are supported by federal grants, and are not considered a fixed part of district budgets. Due to this, the funding for the arts is constantly in danger of being reduced. Across America, officials at the local, state, and federal levels understand the importance of the arts for community development and life. There are many art advocates who are doing everything they can to provide a solid future for the arts in America, despite the tough economy.
In late June Americans for the Arts, an arts advocacy organization, met in Baltimore, Maryland for their 50th annual conference. The nonprofit organization serves the public in hopes of maintaining the appreciation of all forms of art. It serves the arts by helping build long-lasting environments where arts organizations can flourish and eventually support themselves. At the annual conference, an array of leaders from various types of arts institutions met to confer and get their ideas on the table. Robert Redford was just one of many individuals who spoke at the conference. Business models, technological advancements, and community efforts were a few of the many issues discussed in order to better the understanding of what needs to be done for the success of the arts . Despite the economic challenges in present-day America, over a thousand people came to Baltimore to meet, speak, and learn. They left the meeting with the proper tools to make an impact in their own communities.
It is inspiring to see such a large number of people come together to listen, share ideas, and learn from one another. Aside from the nonprofit organizations trying to advocate for the arts, states are handling the funding for the arts in this economy the best they can, with fiscal constraints. In New York City this June, the City Council decided to restore $30 million to the Department of Cultural Affairs for spending on the arts. Although with this budget museums will see a dip in their yearly funds, it was not as dramatic as expected. Art museums are recognized for providing a significant amount of revenue for communities as they are a constant source of tourism and community life. Aside from the money, state officials recognize the cultural importance of museums. Therefore, although budget cuts have diminished funding for the arts by 39% in New York, it can be considered a small victory that this money was restored to the Department of Cultural Affairs.
On the federal level, President Obama, a lover of the arts, proposed a 2011 budget for the arts which shows little to no increase from the 2010 budget. While some organizations received less funding, many were allotted more. Congress granted the National Endowment for the Arts about $6 million more than the president’s $161.3 million proposal. The NEA is an institution formed by Congress in 1965 that serves as the largest funder of the arts. It recognizes the nonprofit art industry as an important part of the economy. Because of the constraints of the deficit, any increase is seen as a victory for institutions. Considering the entire nation’s economic problems, large arts organizations like the NEA were content with the budget.
If you feel you need to help, there are many ways you can get involved at local nonprofit organizations, school board meetings, and museums. The New Britain Museum of American Art is always welcoming new members and volunteers. By helping the Museum, you can benefit your local community and also contribute to the advancement of a vibrant and vital museum. Click here to find out more about opportunities, or here to donate to the NBMAA.
See this blog post about Thomas Hart Benton’s mural series, The Arts of Life in America, painted during The Great Depression. This is a great example of using the arts to reviatlize the ecomony through efforts such as the WPA.
How do you think the arts can help the economy? Vice versa?