With the recent release of President Trump’s budget, threats are being made to numerous government organizations in an effort to balance the budget. These cuts will affect many individuals and communities and have led to advocacy for many different causes. While I support many of these programs and organizations that are getting cut, one specifically in my view is the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). After a recent visit to Washington D.C. for Arts Advocacy Day, my eyes were opened up to the government and how we can remind our representatives what matters to us. With this month’s affirmations, I’m ready to advocate for a cause I care about, but I also realize that not everyone shares my views about the arts. That’s why I’ve crafted a blog post that addresses those perspectives with information from Americans for the Arts. If you’re skeptical about how much impact the arts can have considered a few of my steps to becoming an arts supporter and move forward:
- Ask yourself: Do I know the purpose of the NEA? Do you know the NEA’s mission and vision for the arts? After the Mapplethorpe and Serrano controversies, the actual purpose of the NEA became misconstrued. In reality, the NEA did not directly fund either artist. It was the museums’ decisions to support these artists, but unfortunately, the NEA took the blame. The reality of the NEA’s focus is arts excellence, public engagement with the arts, and providing the public with the benefits and contributions of the arts. From various research projects I’ve done in classes, I’ve found the NEA provides funding and grants that increase accessibility to the arts so more arts organizations and programs can reach those who are limited by geography, economics, or disability.
- If you think the arts is solely supported by liberals and leftists, you might want to reconsider. This is a common misconception that is false. As this podcast featuring former NEA Chairman Dana Gioia indicates, a great deal of funding has come during Republican presidents (and Gioia is a Republican himself). Recently, Republicans have shown their support for the arts and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee has voiced his concerns over the elimination of the NEA.
- Consider some stats when it comes to funding. There are many assumptions that people will not donate because they assume federal funding provides enough coverage. This could not be further from the truth. In fact, it has been found that every NEA grant dollar leverages $9 of private and public funds. This far surpasses the required ratio of 1:1, which requires matching one dollar of funding from public and private sources for every dollar of NEA grant funding.
- If you think the arts are just for creativity’s sake, see how they can benefit other fields including the military and education. In addition to arts funding, the NEA also developed Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network, a program that provides music, writing, and visual art therapy to military care facilities. It’s proven that art therapy is effective in treating insomnia, pain, and other symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Drama therapy has been found to be very successful, especially in programs like the Actors’ Gang Prison Project and Shakespeare Behind Bars. This video from Marin Shakespeare Company shows how powerful drama therapy has been for incarcerated individuals:
Arts in education is also just as important because studies have shown that high school students living in low-income environments who participate in the arts have better grades, have lower dropout rates, and are more likely to continue to college. In general, students that study the arts have better SAT scores and GPAs than those that are not involved in the arts.
- Not convinced the arts impact your local economy? Take a look around. Non-profit arts supports 4.13 million jobs and according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the NEA, the arts and culture sector contributes to 4.2% of the nation’s GDP. Arts organizations also impact their communities. The industry generates $135 billion in spending by arts organizations and their audiences, 4.1 million jobs, and $22.3 billion in government revenue. The arts also increase tourism by attracting tourists to who spend money on items beyond the admission that go back to the local communities they visit. You can discover more national statistics at Americans for the Arts and read their Arts & Economic Prosperity report to find information specific to your area.
- Before you reject the arts: visit a nearby museum; see a play, concert, or dance show; attend a community event; read a book or a magazine; watch a movie, or turn on the radio. The arts are all around us, and you probably participate in them more than you realize. A common complaint about federal funding for the arts is: “Why should I have to pay taxes to fund the arts if I don’t participate in it?” My response to this question is that we pay taxes for services we don’t use all the time. We pay taxes for programs that benefit the community in a variety of ways, even if we don’t always directly experience the benefits. Does that mean we should get rid of these programs? Is cutting an entire program the answer to balancing the budget? The NEA’s budget is currently $148 million (47 cents per capita), a small amount when it comes to other funding areas. This video from the Washington Post shows the reality of balancing the budget by cutting all of the programs and organizations that are being proposed:
Still need more reasons to support the arts? This list from the Americans for the Arts show how the arts are embedded in our world and influence us more than we realize. The arts are part of who we are, they impact our communities and our economy, and it’s proven they can benefit our areas of our lives. If you’re ready to join me in supporting the arts after seeing how much they improve our world, see how you can use American for the Arts’ Advocacy Toolkit to contact your representatives and share these statistics and your personal stories. While other organizations on the chopping block are just as important to America, overlooking the arts hinders our society’s development and improvement. Without all of these organizations working together, we cease to benefit our society and continue to strengthen our nation.
What are other reasons to support the arts? How do you think we can show support for the arts?
Cover Photo Credit: Pixabay