Congressional Appropriators Consider Cutting NEA in Half

Posted by Narric Rome On August - 1 - 2013
Full Cmte 4

Full Appropriations Committee Yesterday, July 31

In mid-July, the appropriations subcommittee that oversees funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) met to approve a funding bill for fiscal year 2014, which begins on October 1st. Their bill calls for the NEA to receive a 49% cut totaling $71 million, which would bring the agency’s budget down to $75 million, a level not seen since 1974!

Yesterday, the full appropriations committee began their consideration of the bill, expected to take a few hours. However, they faced numerous amendments and rising tempers, and everyone has had an eye on adjourning for August – so they suspended the committee markup until September.

Before they stopped, they did consider an amendment offered by senior appropriator Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Rep. David Price (D-NC) to fund the NEA (and the National Endowment for the Humanities) to the president’s request of $154 million. The amendment was defeated along a party-line vote of 19-27.

The 49% budget cut that remains in place is shocking, but not necessarily surprising. Leading up to the committee’s action, the House of Representatives approved a budget resolution which included the sequester cuts of about 5% to agency budgets, and an overall funding plan that reduced the entire bill by 19%. So, arts advocates and those who were closely watching from the environmental and natural resource communities were not surprised to see significant cuts proposed. However, a 49% reduction to an independent federal agency is misguided, counterproductive, and entirely disproportionate.

Final FY 2013
(includes 5% sequester cut)

FY 2014 President’s

FY 2014 House Subcommittee

National Endowment for the Arts


$154.466 million


National Endowment for the Humanities


$154.466 million


The arts community recognizes the challenges our elected leaders face in prioritizing federal resources. In fact, funding for the NEA has already been cut by more than $29 million over the past three years. These disproportionate cuts recall the dramatic decline of federal funding for the arts in the early 90s, from which the agency has still not recovered. Read the rest of this entry »

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

Posted by Sally Gaskill On July - 2 - 2012

Sally Gaskill

As it turns out, quite a bit.

Since 2008, the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) has surveyed graduates of arts training programs—people who received undergraduate and/or graduate arts degrees from colleges and universities as well as diplomas from arts high schools…people who majored in architecture, arts education, creative writing, dance, design, film, fine arts, media arts, music, theater, and more.

To date, SNAAP has collected data from over 50,000 arts graduates of all ages and nationalities. These respondents, as we call them in the survey world, graduated from nearly 250 different educational institutions in the U.S. and Canada.

In a few short years, SNAAP has become what is believed to be the largest database ever assembled about the arts and arts education, as well as the most comprehensive alumni survey conducted in any field.

Recently, we published our latest findings: A Diverse Palette: What Arts Graduates Say About Their Education and Careers. The report provides findings from over 33,000 arts graduates who responded to the online survey last fall.

Our report has attracted media coverage from the New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Inside Higher Ed and—we were gawked on! My favorite may be Forbes, which compares getting an arts degree with getting a law degree—and recommends that prospective law students consider an arts career instead.

Here are some of the big questions that SNAAP data begin to answer.

1.      Where do arts graduates go?

  • First, they are largely employed. Only 4% of SNAAP respondents are unemployed and looking for work, as opposed to the national average of 8.9%.

The Public Kitchen & the Dilemma of Evaluating a Gesture

Posted by Kenneth Bailey On May - 4 - 2012

Public Kitchen participants.

The next intervention the Design Studio is working on is called the Public Kitchen. It’s part of larger project we are developing called “The Public: A Work in Progress.”

As public infrastructures—hospitals, water, schools, transportation, etc.—are privatized, the Public Kitchen takes a stab at going in the reverse direction. It is a “productive fiction”; it’s our experimentation with a new, more vibrant social infrastructure that can:

  • Challenge the public’s own feelings that “public” means poor, broken down, poorly run, and “less than” private
  • Engage communities in claiming public space, the social and food justice
  • Make a new case for public infrastructures through creating ones that don’t exist

The first step of the Public Kitchen occured last fall when we worked with artist and graphic designer Jill Peterson to create what we called a “mobile ideation kit.” This enabled us to have interesting conversations with passers-by in a variety of communities, with an easy, attractive way to ask about what would be important to them in this made-up new form.

Next, we created an indoor Public Kitchen exhibit for Roxbury Open Studios. Over 100 residents, activists and artists came for a bite, took home fresh veggies, imagined new food policies, checked out architectural sketches, and added their ideas for what’s possible for a Public Kitchen.

Read the rest of this entry »

Time-Tested Tools for Evaluation

Posted by Chris Dwyer On May - 2 - 2012

Chris Dwyer

I’ve had the good fortune to live in the same community for the past 27 years and the double good fortune to have participated over time in a wide range of arts-based initiatives in that community:

  • site-based work related to immigration
  • explorations of the history of a working class neighborhood now gentrified
  • rediscovery and recognition of the paved-over African Burying ground in our white New England city
  • perspectives on the challenges faced by seniors
  • and the most widely known, The Shipyard Project, which was a two-year exploration through dance of the intertwined histories of a large naval military installation and a port city that have co-existed side-by-side for over two hundred plus years.

So, I’ve had an advantage that most project evaluators never experience, that is, a really longitudinal view of unfolding impacts.

Long after initiatives have concluded, I have seen relationships that began in a community arts project rekindle to tackle a new issue or witnessed policies that were the object of arts-informed debate finally take hold after several failed attempts. I have seen young people who were inspired by the arts planning of my generation decide to settle in the community and become the next generation of arts and community leaders.

The real impacts become visible many years after the evaluator has delivered the final report to the funders. Read the rest of this entry »

Talia Gibas

Talia Gibas

Victoria’s post asks what it would mean for arts educators to “share an agenda.” As she points out, arts education is typically not “at the table” for broader discussions of education reform. Why is this the case?

Two common explanations spring to my mind. The first is that the other people sitting around the table—those in the broader “edusphere”—don’t “get it.” They don’t understand or value what we do.

An undercurrent of this explanation is that we are enlightened (we alone understand what children need to learn and experience to function as healthy, happy members of society) and they are not.

The second explanation is that we are so busy feeling slighted by the first explanation (which a regional study in LA County did not show to be true) that we approach those other people at the table with mindset of defensiveness rather than of support.

We try to convince them of the value of the arts rather than listening to what they are trying to accomplish—acknowledging that they too care about students—and demonstrating how we can be of service.

I clung to the first explanation for a long time but admit the second explanation now resonates more with me. Read the rest of this entry »

We All Agree, But Are We Effective?

Posted by Stephanie Riven On September - 1 - 2011

Stephanie Riven

We, the arts community, agree that arts learning improves academic performance, increases lifelong learning skills and often helps students at risk of failure engage in school.

We can point to the children. We can point to classrooms and to certain districts. We see their success.

In our arsenal of facts and arguments, we have key messages, data, research, policy briefs, examples of districts that have made progress, and a very effective lobbying effort in Washington.

We know the public agrees, too. After all, 91 percent of voters indicate that the arts are essential to building capacities of imagination.

But our message continues to become lost in translation where math, reading, and science are seen as the only subjects worthy of significant support. Read the rest of this entry »

Government Ethics, Government Schmethics…Who Cares?

Posted by Scarlett Swerdlow On June - 30 - 2011

Scarlett Swerdlow

This week Rod Blagojevich was convicted on 17 counts of corruption, including trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama.

Here in Illinois, we collectively braced for the bad jokes. We try to laugh it off — the Cubs and Bears may be perennial losers, but at least we’re #1 at something — but there’s no denying the facts. When Blago begins his sentence, he will be the fourth former governor of our state sent to the pokey in the past 35 years.

You might not think Blago’s guilty verdict has anything to do with the arts, but I think there is a connection between ethics in government and the priorities of government.

Last summer, we helped produce an event with U.S. Representative Mike Quigley as part of the Americans for the Arts 50 States 50 Days campaign. Representative Quigley is an interesting guy. Government transparency and accountability are his signature issues. Read the rest of this entry »

White House Blogs on Arts Education

Posted by Tim Mikulski On May - 16 - 2011
Tim Mikulski

Tim Mikulski

Late last week Melody Barnes, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, took to the White House website to inform the voting public of the recent President’s Council on the Arts and Humanities (PCAH) report, Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools.

Although the report recently made a splash in the arts education world and it was picked up for publication in some publications across the country, it was comforting to see that Ms. Barnes felt it important to utilize the stature of to spread the word, too.

In addition to highlighting the work of PCAH, Barnes also spotlighted the first family’s series of concerts (and poetry reading) held at their home since moving to Pennsylvania Avenue.  Read the rest of this entry »

NCLB & the Obama Administration

Posted by Narric Rome On March - 18 - 2011

Narric Rome, Lynne Kingsley,Michael Sikes

The picture on the right was taken at Kenmore Middle School in Arlington, VA, – a Kennedy Center Changing Education Through the Arts (CETA) partner school following an education policy speech by President Obama on Monday, March 14.

Pictured are Americans for the Arts Senior Director for Federal Affairs & Arts Education Narric Rome, Americans for the Arts’ Arts Education Council Member and Executive Director of the American Alliance for Theatre & Education Lynne Kingsley, and Arts Education Partnership Senior Associate for Research & Policy Michael Sikes.

The President’s speech was the third in a set of education events to celebrate “Education Month at the White House.” He began the month at Miami’s Central High School and later visited the TechBoston Academy.

At the Kenmore visit, the President challenged Congress on the need to “fix No Child Left Behind.” Specifically, he said this:

“According to new estimates, under the system No Child Left Behind put in place, more than 80 percent of our schools may be labeled as failing – 80 percent of our schools. Four out of five schools will be labeled as failing. That’s an astonishing number. And our impulse is to either be outraged that the numbers are so high, or skeptical that they’re even true. And let’s face it, skepticism is somewhat justified. We know that four out of five schools in this country aren’t failing. So what we’re doing to measure success and failure is out of line.” Read the rest of this entry »

Where is Our “Road Map?”

Posted by Marete Wester On March - 17 - 2011
Marete Wester

Marete Wester

As I write this, the clock is ticking on the deadline for the March 18 end to the Continuing Resolution passed by the Congress that allows the government to keep on working—despite the fact that the 2011 federal budget is still being debated.

New members of Congress are working hard to fulfill campaign promises to cut the budget deficit—even if it means reneging on commitments to education and other areas where promises have been made.

Not surprisingly, the fate of 33 grants totaling $40 million to model arts education programs across the country through the U.S. Department of Education lie in this shadow, the outcome still uncertain.

And yet, despite an almost daily offering of news pieces, blogs, and op-eds placing creativity and innovation at the top of what a multitude of experts from economists to educators to engineers say will help the country out of our economic crisis, we find ourselves once again having to make the case for why the arts—the proverbial “primordial ooze” of creativity—is worthy of government investment.    Read the rest of this entry »

Money is Policy

Posted by Richard Kessler On March - 17 - 2011

Richard Kessler

When the categorical funding line for arts education in the New York City Public Schools was eliminated, essentially to “empower the principals” and to increase the total budget available to each school, a good friend and colleague of mine who works for the local district said: “money is policy.”

Short and sweet – don’t ya think?

And let’s be clear here, we’re not talking about soft money, which tends to be relatively small and short-term.

We’re talking about good old fashioned tax levy money, real-deal school dollars. The kind that is in increasingly short supply

There are many who will take issue with this. The arguments against this statement center on money not necessarily changing anything for the long haul, and in the absence of more thoughtful structures that give context and meaning to the funding, the long-term intentions behind the change brought about by funding tend to be evanescent.    Read the rest of this entry »

Riding the Arts Education Roller Coaster

Posted by Marete Wester On March - 4 - 2011
Marete Wester

Marete Wester

I don’t have a Twitter account. I’m not morally opposed to it, or taking an anti-technology political stance—I’m merely a social media “slow adapter.” Since it’s one of those things I know it will take me a while to learn, it’s not high on my priority “to do’s”—at least for now.

Which is why I’m always amazed when a colleague emailed me that I’ve been quoted on Twitter, as I was recently speaking on a panel at the Face to Face conference hosted by the Arts in Education Roundtable in New York City (Feb 22 & 23).

The Face to Face conference had several hundred attendees, with a significant number of first-timers. While many of the panels were thoughtfully focused on building skills and improving practice in delivering solid learning in the arts, others were targeted towards advocacy and making the case.

The comment that made the tweet was something I said as a member of the Arts Education Advocacy panel moderated by Doug Israel of the Center for Arts Education, featuring NYC Councilman Robert Jackson and NYS State Alliance for Arts Education Executive Director Jeremy Johannesen.

In response to a question about how we would describe the current environment for arts education from our respective vantage points at the local, state, and national level, I apparently said something tweet-able. Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Education Funding Cut in Two-Week Budget Fix

Posted by Tim Mikulski On March - 3 - 2011
Tim Mikulski

Tim Mikulski

Although Congress quickly avoided a government shutdown this week, arts education funding somehow managed to get caught up in the two-week continuing resolution Band-Aid that was passed by both the House and Senate yesterday.

While the Continuing Resolution (CR) keeps the government running for another two weeks, it also makes a $4 billion cut in domestic spending, including a number of federal education programs.

Among the programs designated for cuts is the total elimination of funding for the Department of Education’s $40 million Arts in Education program. This program funds a large number of arts education activities across in the country, including the Kennedy Center’s arts education efforts and VSA, the international organization on arts and disability. Read the rest of this entry »

State-ing Our Case for the Arts (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Tim Mikulski On February - 23 - 2011
Tim Mikulski

Tim Mikulski

Many of our loyal Arts Watch readers are familiar with Americans for the Arts’ national arts advocacy efforts, but in light of recent state-level budgetary threats, we wanted to make sure that all of our members and non-members were kept up to date on the latest information in your individual states and regions.

The State Arts Action Network (SAAN), a network of over 70 arts advocacy, services, and education organizations, has been active within Americans for the Arts since 2004, when two previously independent national arts organizations (the State Arts Advocacy League of America and the National Community Arts Network) ratified an agreement to become part of our organization. Over the past few years, SAAN has also grown to include the members of the Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network.

However, the SAAN isn’t left to its own devices, as two staff members from the Government and Public Affairs Department, Jay Dick and Justin Knabb, provide professional development, networking, and technical assistance to the organizations. Jay and Justin also monitor news and events in all 50 states, providing advocacy help to the SAAN member organizations when needed.

All of this background leads me to a brand new area of our website. Read the rest of this entry »

House Cuts FY11 NEA Budget by $20.5 Million

Posted by Tim Mikulski On February - 18 - 2011
Tim Mikulski

Tim Mikulski

By a mere 8 votes in the House of Representatives, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) FY2011 budget was cut down to $124.5 million yesterday-the same level of funding as FY2007.

Rep. Tim Walberg’s (R-MI) amendment passed 217-209, but it wasn’t a case of party line politics as 23 Republicans voted against the measure and 3 Democrats voted in favor of it.

The good news is that the two amendments to eliminate the NEA altogether were introduced, but never offered up for a vote by the sponsors on Thursday. That is a testament to the advocacy efforts  of the arts community and the strong supporters for the arts in the Congress, including Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), who gamely handed our Creative Industries maps out to House members on the floor before the vote. Read the rest of this entry »