The mid-term elections have caused quite a shake-up for nonprofit art organizations as Republicans now have control of the House of Representatives and the Democrats still have the majority in the Senate. The good news: there are some returning and new champions of the arts- Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Representative Todd Platts (R-PA), and Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Representative Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Representative Mark Kirk (R-IL). On the state government level, Governors-elect Jerry Brown (D-CA), Dan Malloy (D-CT), Tom Corbett (R-PA), Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), Lincoln Chaffee (I-RI), Mark Dalton (D-MN), John Hickenlooper (D-CO) and Rick Snyder (R-MI) and locally in Providence, RI Mayor-Elect Angel Taveras and Louisville, KY Mayor-elect Greg Fischer. The bad news: as of the time of the election, the recession has caused a 16% drop in state and local government arts funding as well as a $1.2 billion decline in private charitable gifts. The shaky news: with Congress now divided and Republicans promising to cut government spending and focus on creating jobs, it begs a few questions: Will our newly elected leaders do anything to address the increasing number of individual artists that have experienced unemployment at twice the rate of other professional workers? What will they do to ensure the creative workforce is sustained so our next generation can compete effectively in the global workforce? Will they need a reminder that art works? In the words National Endowment for the Arts Chairman, Rocco Landesmen, the phrase has three meanings:|
a."Art works" is a noun. They are the plays, paintings, dances, films, and the other works of art that are the creation of artists;
b."Art works" is a verb. It describes the effect of art on audiences and viewers, art works to transport, transform, inspire, and challenge us; and
c. "Art works is a declarative sentence. It is a reminder that arts workers are real workers with real jobs who are part of this country's real economy. Art workers pay taxes, and art contributes to economic growth, neighborhood revitalization, and the livability of American towns and cities.
The first priority of our newly elected leaders is to create jobs and grow the economy. If federal and state governments can understand that the nations 100,000 arts and culture nonprofits are actually part of the small business sector, then perhaps they will afford us the attention we deserve. A mutually beneficial relationship can then be established in which the government creates policies promoting nonprofits and nonprofits in turn, create jobs for their communities.
What is promising is that in several hearings over the past four years, the House of Representatives have focused on the role of the arts in the economy and workforce development. These hearings have led to over $100 million in new public investments in the arts. The bipartisan Congressional Arts Caucus and the Senate Cultural Caucus work to educate freshman members on how the arts profit the economy. You can send your Congress members a letter asking them to consider joining one of these bipartisan caucuses.
Only time will tell if the 2010 mid-term elections will result in a boon for the nonprofit sector. With a little optimism and some tips to beat the recession (link back to Recession article), we may all find that the new political situation is not as dire as we feared and weathering this new storm will be easier than we thought.
Is your Congress member for or against public funding of the arts? How do you plan to work with your local and state government to ensure continued funding of arts and culture nonprofits? Are you concerned that Congress shift in power will negatively effect your organization?
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Article Added on Monday, April 9, 2012
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