The Arts Aren’t Red or Blue

Posted by Robert Lynch On November - 7 - 2012

Robert L. Lynch

Every four years America gets another chance to make its voice heard. And every four years the American arts community, in a way, gets a bit of a fiscal makeover.

How is that? Well, it has to do with how the nonprofit arts in America are funded and how policy affects those funding sources. And every four years, no matter who wins elections across our country, there are new policymakers in town.

Roughly 10 percent of the $61 billion aggregate budgets of the nonprofit arts in America comes from government—mostly local and then state government and finally federal sources. Yes, this is a tiny portion of the whole, and it is actually a lot smaller than many people, including many politicians, think. This 10 percent is indeed a small amount compared to the 30 percent the private sector—(mostly) individuals—chips in and the 60 percent that comes from earned and investment income.

But that 10 percent is critical in what is a very conservative funding model for arts in our country. I call this model conservative because a very modest government investment leverages more than 60 times as much private and earned revenue to create a whole industry and support millions of jobs. How?

A $146 million investment from the federal government directly leverages close to $5 billion more in local and state government investment, which in turn helps leverage another $50 billion to create the $61 billion nonprofit arts industry in America.

This model has helped grow an industry from a handful of organizations in 1965—when the federal cultural funding agencies like National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) came into being—to more than 110,000 arts businesses today. Read the rest of this entry »

OR: Building a Case as Portland Prepares to Vote on Arts Funding

Posted by Jeff Hawthorne On July - 13 - 2012

Jeff Hawthorne

The Arts & Economic Prosperity IV report comes at an interesting time for Portland as we prepare to launch a campaign for a transformational arts funding measure that’s headed for the November ballot.

If approved by voters in November, a new income tax capped at $35 per person will raise $12 million per year to support arts organizations and arts education in the City of Portland. Specifically, the measure would restore 65 arts specialists in elementary schools and allow our local arts agency to provide general operating support for about 50 leading arts organizations at a rate of at least five percent of their operating budgets. (Our largest organizations currently receive about one percent of their budgets from local public support).

The measure would also help our Regional Arts & Culture Council set up a fund to increase access to arts and culture, specifically within communities of color and underserved neighborhoods.

The Creative Advocacy Network (CAN) is leading this initiative, and even the most recent polls have been strong, earning 75 percent approval of the actual ballot language among likely voters; we are cautiously optimistic about our chances for success.

However, inexplicably, our local newspaper recently published an appallingly ignorant editorial that dismisses the notion of public funding for the arts, and value of arts education in particular. We’re not quite sure what rock they’ve been living under, but we know they don’t represent the opinion of the vast majority of Portland residents. The letter writing campaign to enlighten them has begun! (Thank you, Bob Lynch, for your letter.)

We’ve also done polling to make sure we understand which messages are most likely to resonate with the voters, and we found that economic impact was not very high on the list. The fact that our local arts organizations constitute a $253 million industry, supporting 8,529 full-time equivalent jobs and generating $21 million in state and local government revenue was deemed “persuasive” by slightly less than half of the likely voters we surveyed. Read the rest of this entry »

Tim Mikulski

TalkingPointsMemo.com’s IdeaLab recently posted an article that included an interview with Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler.

In the piece, Strickler is quoted as stating,”It is probable Kickstarter will distribute more money this year than the [National Endowment for the Arts]. We view that number and our relationship to it in both a good and bad way.” (Editor’s Note: Strickler has published this post in reaction to the published interview.)

He went on to explain that it is good because it could, in theory, double the amount of art in the country, but also bad in that there is room for more federal support for the arts.

While Kickstarter, and other sites like it, have the ability to take all types of art—from comics to operas—to the next level at a time when it is hard for an artist to get funding for a small project, it’s $150 million contribution to the arts is only one quarter of one percent of what is needed annually to fund the nonprofit arts sector’s $60 billion in expenditures according to Randy Cohen, vice president of research and policy here at Americans for the Arts.

But, as Randy added, “This is a great illustration of how individuals are looking for a more personal connection and relationship when deciding where to donate, participate, and volunteer.”

The same principle applies with me as well. Read the rest of this entry »

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.