Federal Budget Update: Never a Better Time for Arts Advocacy Day

Posted by Gladstone Payton On March - 25 - 2013
Gladstone Payton

Gladstone Payton

The House and Senate finally passed the FY 2013 Continuing Resolution which incorporated most of the sequester cuts ordered on March 1.

Only a few programs were amended to restore some of their original funding with a large majority of the across-the-board reductions being maintained. As detailed in my previous post, funding decreases to the National Endowment for the Arts remain at $7 million shaved off the $146 million annual budget.

The funding measure officially closes the books on the last fiscal year as Congress advanced separate budget resolutions for FY 2014. These resolutions are non-binding and do not require the signature of the president to pass, but they do provide instructions that will guide the appropriations process and inform the upcoming tax debates. They are to be taken seriously as the bills represent each party’s “vision” for fiscal policy.

The House version proposes deep cuts to discretionary spending, major changes to entitlements and tax reform that would dramatically lower marginal and corporate tax rates while balancing the budget in 10 years. Also, the House budget contains language for the third year in a row that takes aim at federal cultural funding:  Read the rest of this entry »

The Arts Are Patriotic, Too

Posted by Robert Lynch On February - 5 - 2013
Robert L. Lynch

Robert L. Lynch

Imagine this scene: there is a band playing as you walk in. As the musicians wrap up their piece and take their seats, a large choir pops up, featuring top-notch a cappella performers. This performance segues into rousing solo performances from vocalists backed up by beautiful orchestrations. Great writers are celebrated. Poetry is recited. And the whole celebration is capped off with—what else?—dancing.

If you were in Washington D.C. last week, or anywhere near a television, you might recognize this event, not as an arts festival, a cabaret, or a musical, but as our Presidential Inauguration. It’s probably not the first thing most people noticed as they watched the pomp and circumstance of a centuries-old tradition play out, but it is certainly what struck me most: at our most essentially American moments, when we want to celebrate most fully and most impressively, we inevitably employ the arts.

What I saw was:

  • The presentation of our National Colors through military music and choreography.
  • The spectacular Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.
  • Myrlie Evers-Williams reciting the words to a great, moving spiritual at the center of her comments.
  • The story of the Dome of the Capital—of architecture, art and fine craft—completed in the middle of the Civil War as an artistic symbol of our Union. And the story of the Statue of Freedom atop the Capitol Dome—a piece of art cast, assembled and put in place by slaves in 1863.
  • Musicians James Taylor, Kelly Clarkson, and the Marine Band each singing our national treasures: the great patriotic songs of our country.
  • Poet Richard Blanco reading “One Today”; references again and again to a movie, “Lincoln;” handcrafted crystal vases gifted to the president and vice president at lunch; the gifts given to all members of Congress, a portfolio of essays related to the Statue of Freedom—in the words of Nancy Pelosi: “Freedom stands on the Dome of the Capitol.”
  • And so many more examples, from the arts and music performances in the parade and balls, to Speaker John Boehner’s story of a team of mother and daughter seamstresses who made the huge flag that hung over Ft. McHenry and inspired our national anthem.  Read the rest of this entry »

The How-and-Whys of Our Top 10 Most Viewed Posts of 2012

Posted by Tim Mikulski On December - 19 - 2012

Tim Mikulski

Everyone loves a top 10 list. Sure, it seems the lists are everywhere this time of year—to the point that you’d think that we’ve over-saturated the market for them, right? Wrong.

The best evidence that I can give you to prove that top 10 lists bring people to your site is that four of our top 10 most viewed posts this year contain the number 10 and, as you will see below, our top 3 new posts published in 2012 contain the number, too.

Thankfully, though, that’s not all we’re about here on ARTSblog.

So, the Top 10 Most Viewed ARTSblog Posts created in 2012 are:

1. The Top 10 Skills Children Learn From the Arts

2. Ten Years Later: A Puzzling Picture of Arts Education in America

3. 10 Reasons to Support the Arts in 2012

4. Former President Clinton Supports Arkansas Arts Education Program

5. Overcommitment: Taking the ‘I Shoulds’ Out of Your Life?

6. What Do We Really Know About People Who Get Arts Degrees?

7. What’s Actually Keeping Your Audience Away?

8. President Obama’s Budget Request for the NEA: The Fine Print  Read the rest of this entry »

The Arts: Making a Difference at the DNC

Posted by Robert Lynch On September - 7 - 2012

Bob Lynch at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa.

The Convention Halls are creative chaos. The streets are jammed with animated participants holding placards, engaged in heated dialogue and performing all kinds of issue-based street theater. The scent of policy is in the air. And it’s just the way I like it.

Here at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, the role of the arts is alive and well. What you see on TV is only part of what happens. Inside, actual policy is being discussed—not just broad themes, not just ideas, but approaches that will actually have an impact on lives and on communities.

I am here talking to these very political leaders about the value of the arts and arts education in American society, and I simply have to ask them to look out the window for them to get the point. My US Airways Magazine told the story clearly on my way in, ticking off dozens of cultural destinations awaiting convention delegates.

During our ArtsSpeak panel discussion in Charlotte on the future of arts and arts education in America, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright spoke about cultural diplomacy, a critical foreign policy tool. She also noted how the arts helped shape international political dialogue both formally through U.S.-sponsored jazz and dance and other art forms, and informally by every day actions.

On a personal level, Secretary Albright—famous for her collection of handcrafted brooches—told the story of how she would wear them as subtle symbols of mood or maybe a hint at national policy intent. For example, she wore a serpent pin when meeting with Saddam Hussein. It also turns out that she is a pretty good drummer—and goes by the nickname “Sticks.”

The discussion also showcased how the arts have proven to be so far-reaching. Former Secretary of Education Richard Riley discussed the need for continued focus on national education policies that would steer local and state decision-makers to enhance and support expanded art and music education in the local curriculum. The only state-level cabinet member in the country dedicated to arts and culture, Secretary Linda Carlisle of North Carolina, highlighted how cultural tourism is a huge job creator. Read the rest of this entry »

U.S. House Subcommittee Proposes Reduced Federal Arts Funding

Posted by Natalie Shoop On June - 21 - 2012

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Interior Subcommittee passed its initial Fiscal Year 2013 funding legislation, proposing a $14 million cut for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

While the arts community recognizes the challenges our elected leaders face in prioritizing federal resources, this budget proposal is disappointing as funding for the NEA has already been cut by more than $20 million over the past two years. This additional reduction is counter intuitive to the national call to help increase jobs and fuel the country’s recovery.

Americans for the Arts recently released the Arts and Economic Prosperity IV study, which provides overwhelming proof that the nonprofit arts industry generates $135.2 billion in economic activity every year and supports 4.13 million full-time equivalent jobs annually.

Earlier this year, President Obama proposed an increase of $8 million over the current NEA appropriation to $154.3 million for FY 2013 in contrast with the House Subcommittee mark of $132 million.

As the House proposal advances, it is our hope that you will not only call on your U.S. Representative to reject the funding cuts, but also help us build support for the president’s higher level request by contacting your U.S. Senator. A comparison breakdown of the appropriations status follows:

Final FY 2012 Enacted

FY 2013 President’s
Request

FY 2013 House Subcommittee
Proposal

National Endowment for the Arts

$146.3 million

$154.3 million

$132 million

National Endowment for the Humanities

$146.3 million

$154.3 million

$132 million

This is just the first step in the process. In the coming weeks, it is expected that the larger House Appropriations Committee will consider this legislation followed by the full House of Representatives. Read the rest of this entry »

Gladstone Payton

Anxiety is already building on what promises to be a historic (for mostly all the wrong reasons) lame duck session of Congress after this year’s 2012 national elections in November. This session could possibly have a dramatic affect on the nonprofit arts sector.

Because all the seats in the U.S. House, and one-third of the Senate will be on the ballot November 6, there is very little motivation from either party to find a compromise in advance of election day. With control of the White House hanging in the balance, the political stability that follows an election appears to be the safest time for these issues of substance to be addressed, albeit in a very compressed timeframe.

What is the big deal?

It has many names: “Taxmageddon”; “Legislative Apocalypse” and others; you get the idea. The country is on schedule to see large tax cuts first put in place by President Bush, and then extended by President Obama, expire and huge cuts in government spending basically happen at the end of this year. This means that a tremendous shortfall for the national economy at large. Currently, the Congressional Budget Office estimates are that over $600 billion will be taken out of the still precarious economic recovery by the end of 2013.

How did we get here?

Last summer, President Obama agreed to House Republican demands to cut the burgeoning national deficit in order to increase the national debt limit ceiling to avoid default on our debt obligations. The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) put into place a bipartisan “supercommittee.” Charged with finding how to cut $1.2 trillion promised in the BCA, they failed (miserably) to reach agreement which will trigger deep automatic cuts of 8.4 percent (sequestration) to most social and defense programs as agreed to in the BCA starting 2013.

Adding to the anxiety is the status of the so-called “Bush Tax Cuts” and the payroll tax cut which are set to expire at the end of this year. By letting the tax cuts lapse, the marginal rates for just about every American are scheduled to increase and employees will see less in their paychecks. Combined with the previously mentioned spending cuts, you get a dramatic shortfall. This will spur a lot of talk about reforming the tax code and cutting additional spending, and it could affect the arts sector in a number of ways. Read the rest of this entry »

President Obama’s Budget Request for the NEA: The Fine Print

Posted by Narric Rome On February - 14 - 2012

Image from ArtAndSeek.net

Yesterday, the Obama Administration released their fourth budget request covering all federal agencies, including the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

We learned early that morning that President Obama is proposing an increase of $8 million (from $146M to $154M) for the NEA, which was a very positive start.

In the past two years, NEA funding has dropped almost $22M and has yet to recover from the enormous cuts from its high of $176M in 1992.

The fine print of these budget proposals to Congress are read by federal affairs types for additional news and direction about the programs for which they advocate.

With that mission in mind, the following details may be of interest to arts supporters (You can see the full budget document here):

While the NEA’s budget proposal increases several grant categories, it is the Our Town initiative that receives the most significant support: doubled from $5M to $10M.

The Our Town program made a big debut in 2011 with 51 grantees from 34 states receiving a total of $6.5M. More than half of these grants were awarded to communities with a population of less than 200,000 and seven went to places with fewer than 25,000 people. With $10M to spend in 2013, the NEA could make Our Town grants to 115 communities. Read the rest of this entry »

President Obama

President Obama speaks about his new tourism plan in Disney World.

Our President & CEO, Bob Lynch, is always on the road extolling the virtues of the arts and arts education on behalf of our members and the general public.

Recently, Bob spent a whirlwind week talking about tourism, business partnerships, and advocacy in Orlando, Houston, and Miami.

In Orlando, Bob was sworn in for a two-year term as a member of the United States Travel and Tourism Board. He was honored to receive the appointment and feels it is a great opportunity for the organization and the field.

The U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board serves as the advisory body to the Secretary of Commerce on matters relating to the travel and tourism industry in the United States. The board consists of up to 32 members that advise the Secretary of Commerce on government policies and programs that affect the U.S. travel and tourism industry, offers counsel on current and emerging issues, and provides a forum for discussing and proposing solutions to industry-related problems.

Little did he know that he and the Advisory Board would also have the opportunity to experience a critical press conference held by President Obama (right in the middle of Disney World’s Main Street USA – incidentally a 2011 BCA10 honoree) in which the President put forth his plan to utilize tourism to create jobs and bolster the American economy. Read the rest of this entry »

On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the final budget agreement for FY 2012, which includes $146.255 million in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

On Saturday morning, the same bill passed the U.S. Senate and moves to the desk of President Obama for his signature.

The $146,255 million appropriation is identical to President Obama’s proposed budget, a cut of nearly $9 million from FY 2011, and is a compromise between the House of Representatives number of $135 million and the Senate number of $155 million as previously considered by their respective subcommittees.

Also included in this bill is $24.596 million in funding for the Arts in Education programs at the U.S. Department of Education, which had been zeroed-out in a previous proposal in the House.
Read the rest of this entry »

Only Artists Can Make the Difference

Posted by John Eger On December - 2 - 2011

John Eger

Declaring October as National Art and Humanities Month, President Obama made the observation:

“Educators across our country are opening young minds, fostering innovation, and developing imaginations through arts education. Through their work, they are empowering our Nation’s students with the ability to meet the challenges of a global marketplace. It is a well-rounded education for our children that will fuel our efforts to lead in a new economy where critical and creative thinking will be the keys to success.”

More and more people in high places seem to be saying the right thing. Last April, Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, said: “The Arts can no longer be treated as a frill. Arts education is essential to stimulating the creativity and innovation that will prove critical for young Americans competing in a global economy.”

But we have seen too little in the way of action.

Is this because the administration really doesn’t believe what they say about the arts? Because Washington, D.C. can’t get anything done? Or because the benefits are still not obvious to most politicians. Read the rest of this entry »

President Proclaims October National Arts and Humanities Month

Posted by Tim Mikulski On October - 4 - 2011

Yesterday, President Barack Obama declared October National Arts and Humanities Month through Presidential Proclamation. Within the proclamation, President Obama states:

“Like Rockwell’s painting, art in all its forms often challenges us to consider new perspectives and to rethink how we see the world. This image still moves us with its simple poignancy, capturing a moment in American history that changed us forever. This is the power of the arts and humanities — they speak to our condition and affirm our desire for something more and something better. Great works of literature, theater, dance, fine art, and music reach us through a universal language that unites us regardless of background, gender, race, or creed.”

National Arts and Humanities Month (NAHM) is a coast-to-coast collective recognition of the importance of culture in America. It is designed to encourage all Americans to explore new facets of the arts and humanities in their lives, and to begin a lifelong habit of active participation in the arts and humanities.

From hosting a Creative Conversation or arts center open house to securing a mayoral (or Presidential) proclamation or better newspaper coverage of the arts, people in every community across the United States can celebrate NAHM by helping recognize the contributions of cultural organizations in their region. Read the rest of this entry »

The Trickle-Down Effect of Federal Arts Education Policy

Posted by Narric Rome On August - 9 - 2011

Narric Rome

Not long into my tenure at the U.S. Department of Education during the Clinton administration, I came to understand the limits of what the federal government can do for K-12 education.

At the time, the department boosted funding to support the hiring of 100,000 new teachers and the launch of a new national afterschool initiative that is now a $1.1 billion program.

Arts teachers were among the 100,000 new hires and many of the programs embraced the arts. Federal investment had an important impact, but many arts education advocates would not rank these two accomplishments as major successes. Why? Because a new arts teacher and a new arts afterschool program did not appear in every school in every community.

We need to remember that the federal share in total education spending is only 11 cents on the dollar. The remaining funds come from state and local sources.

Which brings me to federal policy. Read the rest of this entry »

NEA Funding Measure Facing U.S. House Floor Vote

Posted by Natalie Shoop On July - 22 - 2011

As early as next Monday, the full U.S. House of Representatives will vote on FY 2012 funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

Last week, the House Appropriations Committee took the first step in the budget process and passed the Interior Appropriations bill, which proposes to fund the NEA at $135 million for FY 2012. If enacted, this $20 million cut would be the deepest to the NEA in 16 years.

Now, this legislation heads to the next step in the funding process, the House floor, where it could face amendments to increase the cut even deeper or eliminate the NEA altogether.

A similar scenario happened in debates earlier this year over FY 2011 funding, and an amendment to cut the NEA by an additional $20 million succeeded by a slim margin of 8 votes.

Help us reverse this gap by sending a message to your representative today.

White House Gathers Arts ‘Champions of Change’

Posted by Robert Lynch On July - 21 - 2011

Robert L. Lynch

On July 19, I attended a productive meeting at the White House Executive Office Building. The event, coordinated by the President’ Committee on the Arts and Humanities and the White House Office of Public Engagement, was called Champions for Change: Winning the Future Across America.

Some dozen Champions were on hand to react and provide good local examples of how arts interventions made positive change and could contribute to making the case for advancing arts education in America.

Amy Rasmussen, executive director of Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education observed that there was a faster rate of acceleration and improvement in all areas for children when they had the arts as a key part of their learning experience.

Ramon Gonzalez, the founding principal of Middle School 223-The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology in the South Bronx, discussed how the arts engaged students in his school.

His school recognizes and engages all the students as artists and makes the arts a core part of their everyday school life even though the focus of the school is on finance and technology. The result was a 93 percent increase in attendance and a greatly improved learning environment. In this school, which was started in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in New York City when it was created, there has been not even a single fight in the last two years. Read the rest of this entry »

i3 Grantee Lessons: District 75, New York City

Posted by Peggy Ryan On July - 15 - 2011

In 2010, the U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation competition awarded District 75 (New York City’s special education district) and Manhattan New Music Project (MNMP), a $4.6 million, five-year grant to develop and implement Everyday Arts for Special Education (EASE).

EASE is a professional development program designed to improve student achievement in the areas of communication, socialization, academic learning, and arts proficiency through integrated, arts-based approaches.

EASE gives teachers tools and experience with arts-based instruction, and participating teachers learn skills and strategies across multiple arts disciplines (music, dance, visual arts, and theater) in order to integrate the arts into classroom instruction. This makes learning more accessible to special education students who struggle with more conventional instructional approaches. Read the rest of this entry »

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

Evaluation

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.