Published: Sat, March 18, 2017
Culture | By Ray Hoffman

In California, the 'Beginning of the Battle' to Save Arts Funding


The NEH has given San Jose State Associate Professor Matthew Spangler approximately $500,000 over the past three years, which he's used to run a summer institute for K-12 teachers from around the country about the immigrant experience in California. Shindle pointed to the growth and development around the Walt Disney Concert Hall and Hollywood Theatre Row as examples of the economic impact of arts investment.

The Seattle Art Museum also gets regular NEA funding for some of its marquee exhibitions, but SAM director Kimerly Rorschach says the support goes beyond money: The NEA runs something called the federal indemnification project.

"If we didn't have that, that program wouldn't exist", he said. "So, trying to remain the innovative leader of the world is going to be hard when you take and really harm arts education, which is one of the places creativity exists". For the last five years, for example, Springboard for the Arts, which is an economic development group based in St. Paul and Fergus Falls, Minn., has received "Our Town" funding from the NEA, meant to support "creative placemaking" and community storytelling in Fergus Falls.

"At that time we were really unprepared to have this kind of debate", she said. "But, as a symbol of having gone through a rigorous selection process, private dollars do flow".

In a statement, CPB President and CEO Patricia Harrison said, "There is no viable substitute for federal funding that ensures Americans have universal access to public media's education and informational programming and services". Jesse Helms, to cut funding to the NEA or to control what it funds. More than $900,000 of that went directly to the Massachusetts Cultural Council, through a partnership grant, according to Greg Liakos, communications director for the council. Reedsburg-based Wormfarm, which created Sauk County's annual Farm/Art D Tour and Fermentation Fest, has received $210,000 from the NEA since 2013 to launch and maintain its multiday celebration of rural culture.

"To eliminate what amounts to a very small dollar amount in the overall federal budget has wide-reaching effects and is unconscionable", said Michael Stotts, managing director of Hartford Stage.

The National Endowment for the Arts represents about 0.01 percent of current federal discretionary spending, and the National Endowment for the Humanities annual spending is 0.005 percent of the annual federal budget, according to the organizations' respective websites.

"Right now, we're seeing a compounding of issues", he said, referring to the threat of cuts to funding streams for both after-school programs funding and arts. "We are also fortunate to have state and university funding and good support from the corporate community".

Congress has considered proposals to kill federal arts and culture funding before, and rejected them.

In the past, when state budget cuts affected WPT and WPR, additional donations came in to keep the stations running - but only temporarily, he said.

"We brought some North Andover youth over to our headquarters at the Everett Mills, and (they) had an open discussion around the prejudices and stereotypes each had of the other city and town", he said.

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