As I approach my second anniversary at Americans for the Arts later this summer, I can’t help but think about the way things have changed for the arts and cultural community since my arrival in Washington, DC, in August 2007.

In addition to my new role as editor of Arts Watch, I also produce a weekly newsletter for the members of the State Arts Action Network and state arts agencies which focuses on arts issues at the state and local level. However, since the economic downturn began last fall, I suddenly found myself getting to know more than I cared to about state, city, and county budgets.

While many experts feel that we may be close to bottoming out for this recession, arts groups must be cautious and realize that it could take another three to five years before all of our funding sources become stable again. As I recently read, we can’t think of the future based on the past and hope that the funding will return to the “normal” levels of 2007, because the new “normal” is going to have a much lower bar.

Looking ahead at FY10, the arts – along with social service programs, education, healthcare and many other issues – are facing cuts in almost every state, but that does not mean we should stop advocating for the cause. The arts create jobs, develop young (and old) minds, improve our quality of life and help bring in millions of dollars in state and local taxes.

Despite all of the bad news in the economy, we can’t sit idly by and the arts fall by the wayside. When a public art project is debated at your city council meeting, don’t be afraid to step in and defend the project. When the local elementary school chooses to cut two music teachers, talk to the administration about seeking volunteers to fill the void.  It’s only through action will the arts not only survive, but also prosper.

This article comes from Arts Watch, the newly redesigned version of the Cultural Policy Listserv. If you would like to receive Arts Watch, please sign up.

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ARTSblog holds week-long Blog Salons, a series of posts by guest bloggers, that focus on an overarching theme within a core area of Americans for the Arts' work. Here are links to the most recent Salons:

Arts Education

Teaching Artists

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

Charting the Future of the Arts

Taking Communities to the Next Level

New Methods & Models

Public Art

Best Practices


Arts Marketing

Audience Engagement

Winning Audiences

Powered by Community

Animating Democracy

Arts & the Military

Scaling Up Programs & Projects

Social Impact & Evaluation

Humor & Social Change

Private Sector Initatives

Arts & Business Partnerships

Business Models in the Arts

Local Arts Agencies

Cultural Districts

Economic Development

Trends, Collaborations & Audiences

Art in Rural Communities

Alec Baldwin and Nigel Lythgoe talk about the state of the arts in America at Arts Advocacy Day 2012. The acclaimed actor and famed producer discuss arts education and what inspires them.