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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