Saturday, February 14, 2009

The NEA made it!

The recent campaign to get the arts community mobilized and advocating to local legislators has paid off. In the conference committee on capitol hill yesterday, the funding for the NEA was reinstated in the stimulus package and passed both the House and Sentate vote.

The New York Times ArtsBeat Blog reported,

"To the relief of cultural institutions, the economic-stimulus bill approved by Congress on Friday preserved $50 million in financing for the National Endowment for the Arts. While minuscule by comparison with some other allocations in the bill, it is a hefty sum for the endowment, whose annual budget is $145 million. Sixty percent of the new money will go to individual arts projects competing for N.E.A. funds. The remainder will be be distributed to state arts agencies and regional arts organizations for disbursal.

Leaders of cultural organizations had been on tenterhooks throughout the week. An earlier House version of the stimulus bill had a $50 million allocation for the arts endowment, but it was excluded from the Senate version approved on Tuesday. And a week ago, Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, had won Senate passage of an amendment he proposed ruling out stimulus money for museums, theaters or art centers. (He lumped them with casinos, golf courses and swimming pools as undeserving.) Under the language approved on Friday, the arts groups were deleted from that portion; the bill does still explicitly rule out money for casinos, golf courses, swimming pools, zoos and aquariums.

Arguing for the $50 million in arts money on the House floor on Friday, Representative David R. Obey, Democrat of Wisconsin, said: “You know what? There are five million people who work in the arts industry. And right now they have 12.5 percent unemployment — or are you suggesting that somehow if you work in that field, it isn’t real when you lose your job, your mortgage or your health insurance? We’re trying to treat people who work in the arts the same way as anybody else."

From Americans for the Arts- A United Voice
This is an important victory for all of you as arts advocates. More than 85,000 letters were sent to Congress, thousands of calls were made, and hundreds of op-eds, letters to the editor, news stories, and blog entries were generated in print and online media about the role of the arts in the economy. Artists, business leaders, mayors, governors, and a full range of national, state, and local arts groups all united together on this advocacy issue. This outcome marks a stunning turnaround of events and exemplifies the power of grassroots arts advocacy.

We would like to also thank some key leaders on Capitol Hill who really carried our voices into the conference negotiation room and throughout the halls of Congress: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Appropriations Chairman Dave Obey (D-WI), House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Norm Dicks (D-WA), and Congressional Arts Caucus Co-Chair Louise Slaughter (D-NY). We also want to publicly thank President Obama for taking the early lead in recognizing the role of the arts in economic development. These leaders were able to convincingly make the case that protecting jobs in the creative sector is integral to the U.S. economy.

1 comment:

Dianne said...

Thanks for posting this good news! The Arts practically disappear in the media, given all that there is to try and keep track of right now.