Okay, everyone is all abuzz about NEA (as in arts endowment, not the National Education Association) Chairman Rocco Landesman raising the issue in a recent blog of there being too much supply for the demand. In other words: there are too many arts organizations in America.
For the portion of K-12 arts education that is connected to the arts and cultural sector (as opposed to school faculty, a distinction that underscores the complicated nature of arts ed), the overall calculus to the market forces is simple: schools purchase arts education services and the organizations raise funds to offset the cost of the services not covered by the fees from the schools. As the historic cuts to state budgets decimate education funding, prompting many to believe we are in a “reset moment,” contracted services will decline even further. Add to this, the declines in fundraising reported across the entire non-profit sector. Yes, some of the foundation funding will start to increase, as a result in the growth of the stock market. But not so fast; I am sorry to predict that foundation giving will not return to pre-2008 levels for the arts and arts education, as the tremendous growth in charter schools and other variants of school reform will cause a diversification in foundation, individual, and corporate giving. To be fair, many of my colleagues and friends tell me that particular prognostication is overstated and not based in data.
If you want to get a sense of how profound some of the state cuts will be, click on through to Ed Week’s coverage of what’s happening in Texas, and even if you can’t read the entire article as a non-subscriber, the tease is more than enough.
We’re living in a time a extraordinary flux, and the greater field of the arts is feeling it in appropriately extraordinary ways. Whether it be the economy, technology, business models, tastes, generational shifts, most everyone recognizes the change and many are struggling to keep pace, while hoping to take advantage of it.
I believe the field of education may be even more dynamic right now, and as next year brings state budget cuts to education the likes of which we haven’t seen since the 70s, there will be a super fuel added to the change that will present one of the greatest opportunity-challenges in a very long time.
If we’re to commit further to advancing arts education, at the very least we should do it the right way and make sure it is for the benefit of the kids (and ultimately society), and hope that it just might have some sort of ripple effect in arts participation some years down the line.