Enough Already!

gmail iconI got one of those emails today in my personal inbox – one of those emails with bad news about arts funding.  The subject line read “House Subcommittee cuts NEA by 49%.”  The political posturing over what amounts to less than two one thousandths of one percent (0.001791%) of the federal budget seems like an especially egregious form of micro-management by congress – ENOUGH ALREADY!

afta-logoThis news came via Americans for the Arts Action Fund along with a helpful link to an email template that would enable me, with just a few clicks, to send an email to my representative and senators imploring them to “Please Support Arts and Culture Funding.”  Why should my representatives do so? Because “The arts mean jobs for our district! The nonprofit arts industry generates $135.2 billion annually in economic activity, supports 4.1 million full-time equivalent jobs in the arts and related industries, and returns $9.6 billion in federal income taxes.”  ENOUGH ALREADY about the economic impact of the arts. Even the NEA, in its report on and map of “How Art Works” notes “Recent arts policy and casemaking for the arts has overemphasized the critical value of art’s direct and indirect economic impacts on society. Although those analyses and resulting numbers certainly matter and are attractive because of their concrete nature, our research suggests that the other individual and community values of art—if they were more directly quantifiable—in all likelihood far outweigh the measurable financial values of the arts.”  I thank AFTA for making it so easy to customize my email to Rep. Sinema and Senators McCain and Flake, but I don’t think the economic argument works, at least not on its own.  So, I added the following: “Even more important than the direct economic benefits of the nonprofit arts sector are its benefits to the vibrancy and livability of the communities in our district, and the health and well-being of its inhabitants. The nonprofit arts sector supports jobs, tourism, community cohesion, and civic participation – which of these would you choose to oppose?”

The economic argument is used to support enterprises as diverse as sports stadiums and scientific research.  Should the arts be competing for attention there or instead standing its ground on its own strengths? I advocate – and when I advocate, I advocate for a more holistic approach to advocacy.

If you would like to contact your representative and senators to voice your support for arts and culture funding, here is a link to AFTA’s customizable email: https://votervoice.net/ARTSUSA/Campaigns/30433/Respond I encourage you to use it – and to customize it to be inclusive of all of the arts sector’s benefits.

About lindaessig

Linda Essig is Dean of the College of Arts & Letters at Cal State LA and principal/owner of Creative Infrastructure LLC. The opinions expressed on creativeinfrastructure are her own and not those of Cal State LA. You can follow her on twitter @LindaInPhoenix.
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3 Responses to Enough Already!

  1. I’m both/and on this question. There’s an economy around everything and economic thinking is certainly dominant in policy negotiations. But when you persuasively add in all the other values, people (including decision-makers) start seeing their communities in 3D. They get very excited and they want to DO things. Then lots of other pots of money turn into arts money and folks are happy to get in on it because they know it’s going to leverage and promote all kinds of good work and relationships. We’re shiny that way The trick is getting it out of fight mode, though. The arts never win if they’re ranked by priority against other policy issues like education, environment, social services, safety (because, duh.) so they need to be understood as integrative. When handled that way (at least at the community level) they can also make the policy climate itself more hospitable. The Congressional Arts Caucus is a good example of that at the federal level. The local arts councils I admire operate that way too. That’s why picking a fight with us is so disingenuous. We’re in your schools and hospitals, showing you a good time on the weekend, AND revitalizing your downtown. That’s what you’re so offended by? Pure nasty politics and arts leaders ought to knock it back a peg.

  2. Ziska Childs says:

    I included a list of local non-profits (mostly Arts based) which shows their payroll base (not their economic impact- just jobs) and mentioned how Arts education helps teach focus and discipline.


  3. Pingback: Enough Already! | Symposium Magazine

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