The National Endowment for the Arts has been directed by the US House Appropriations Committee in its report to Interior to continue the American Jazz Masters Fellowships and dump its proposed American Artists of the Year honors. The report also supports continuation of the NEA’s National Heritage Fellowships program (but not its Opera Honors) and recommends a 2012 NEA budget $19.6 million less than it got in 2011, $11.2 million below what the NEA asked for.
“The Committee does not support the budget request proposal to eliminate the National Heritage Fellowship program and the American Jazz Masters Fellowship program,” reads the report (on page 106) published July 11. It goes on:
The National Heritage Fellowship program, which was created in 1982, has celebrated over 350 cultural leaders from 49 states and five U.S. territories, focusing national attention on the keepers of America’s deep and rich cultural heritage found in communities large and small, rural and urban. Similarly, the American Jazz Masters Fellowship, also created in 1982, has bestowed appropriate national recognition on a uniquely American art form Congress has proclaimed a national treasure. Accordingly, the Committee directs the NEA to continue these popular honorific fellowships in the same manner as it has in the past.The Committee believes the proposal to establish a separate NEA American Artist of the Year honorific award is not warranted and could be perceived as an attempt to circumvent clear, long-established congressional guidelines prohibiting direct grant funding to individual artists.
Also in the report (starting on page 105 of the pdf), the Committee asserts its support for the “longstanding collaborative relationship between the NEA and the States [Arts Agencies],” funding state partnerships with $46 million, which includes a $10 million set-aside for rural communities.
The Committee lauds the Blue Stars Museums program that gives free museum admission to “all active duty, National Guard and Reserve military personnel and their families from Memorial Day through Labor Day,” as well as what it calls “cost-effective, well-managed” initiatives with “broad geographic reach” (specifically, the Big Read, Challenge America and Shakespeare in American Communities) that extend the arts to under-served communities. Furthermore, it “views the NEA’s newest initiative — known as Our Town — as an economic development and revitalization proposal more properly aligned with the goals and objectives of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.” The report cites the Committee’s concern that Our Town funding would “gravitate states’ arts agencies to concentrate funds toward large urban centers with strong existing arts infrastructures at the expense of State Arts Agencies which are better positioned to reach underserved populations.”
While the Committee believes that the NEA is well-positioned to provide expertise to HUD and other Federal agencies on promoting the arts in large and small communities . . . as competition for Federal dollars grows, limited direct grant funding dollars with- in the NEA should be devoted to core programs with a proven record of success.”
Consequently, Our Towns gets $2 million, $3 million less than the NEA requested.
The total budget recommendation for the NEA is $135,000,000. The Committee recommends the same amount of support (and equal cuts from the 2011 budget level and the 2012 request) for the National Endowment of the Humanities. For comparison: the price of one F-35 Lightning !! fighter plane from Lockheed Martin is currently estimated at $156 million.