I 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!
This 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.