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The Times They Are A-Changin’: National Funding for Arts Education

Those who have been around the block a few times will probably see this as just another instance of the vicissitudes of funding. We’ve seen any number of large scale funding initiatives come and go; any number of major funders for arts education come and go. Once upon a time there was the JDR 3rd Fund, The GE Fund, The Annenberg Foundation, and others.

Nevertheless, the general opinion appears to be that 2009 was a pretty bad year, and it’s hard to argue against that position when it comes to arts education funding.

In 2009, the Ford Foundation, the Dana Foundation, and the Wallace Foundation either ended their arts education programs entirely or reduced them significantly.

Ford made final grants to its cohort of arts education grantees across the country.

Dana just announced that it is ending its support for teaching artist training. That being said,  Dana will continue to support arts education as part of its brain research program.

The Wallace Foundation reduced its overall footprint significantly by laying off somewhere around a third of its staff, including the elimination of two senior positions directly related to arts learning and one related indirectly. While Wallace is expected to continue making select grants in arts learning, including renewals to some existing grantees, the explosive growth in position and influence witnessed in the past four years in arts education appears to have ended by practically all accounts. The saving grace here is that my friend Daniel Windham remains at Wallace. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out at Wallace.

It is what it is–the times they are a-changin’.

And yes, the times are always a-changin’, and will change again. So, I am not all gloom and doom on the fifth day of this new decade, but feel it’s important to take note of the losses of 2009 and hope that 2010 will bring some new actors to the national and regional funding stage.

And, if you want the real deal, here’s a glorious early TV appearance of Bob Dylan singing the title song of this blog!


  1. Dewey21C provides valuable insights for all who care about the future of arts education. Unfortunately, the characterization of The Wallace Foundation’s work in today’s Jan. 5 blog post is incorrect.
    In fact, Wallace’s commitment to arts education remained strong in 2009 – and will continue to be strong in 2010 and beyond. Although we are a smaller foundation in staff numbers, we expect our work in arts education to grow and evolve as we focus more specifically in the coming years on expanding learning and enrichment opportunities for children. (It’s also worth noting that our work with arts organizations to increase participation continues through 2014, and we expect to release new research on this topic early next year.)
    As part of a foundation-wide staff reduction, two arts staff positions were eliminated – but three arts staff positions remain. And our communications and research staff will continue to be heavily involved in our arts learning work. We just renewed support to Big Thought, the respected arts learning organization in Dallas, with a grant of $4.3 million. And we are working with the Minneapolis School District, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and the School District of Philadelphia to support the development of plans to strengthen arts learning in those communities.
    As a foundation, we remain firmly committed to the idea that all children deserve opportunities to engage with the arts. And we continue to investigate ways to develop knowledge about how communities can improve access, equity and quality in arts learning.

  2. Thanks for this Daniel. I am sure that everyone will join me in a sigh of relief to hear that even though The Wallace Foundation staff is smaller, that its commitment to arts education has not declined.

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