Just how much damage did the recent budget deal do to the arts in the United States?
Michael M. Kaiser notes in the New York Times that in government funding cuts "the organizations that tend to get hit the most are rural, organizations of color, avant-garde institutions — those that have a harder time raising individual and corporate money." States already spend a fraction of their budget on the arts (the governor of Kansas recently vetoed an arts budget of just $689,000), and that amount looks to diminish in the near future as many NEA grants require matching state funds. While slashed funding at the federal level won't hurt big, donor-rich museums like the Met, it will winnow out smaller institutions that lack the support of wealthy communities.
South Carolina just successfully resisted a zero-funding attempt, with the New York Times reporting that creative industries pay the state a handsome return in both jobs and economic growth. Meanwhile, the National Endowment for the Arts, already running on a shoestring budget, argues that the arts generated $287 billion in 2009. That's considerably more than the $275 million appropriated for the arts nationwide this year (granted, the arts will probably generate less money anyway in a slower economy), but it's a disservice to view the arts in economic terms. After all, in Washington State the governor proposed eliminating the Washington State Arts Commission and handing its duties off to the Department of Commerce. Simply handing the arts off to a commerce department and scrutinizing them for payoff has obvious, negative, ramifications. And some apologists just weaken the position by holding up projects that the general public (let alone hardline deficit hawks) will scoff at.
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