Americans for the Arts has warned arts organizations to plan scenarios for 40% cuts in their budgets as the economy gets worse. And the group says that 10,000 arts organizations could go out of business in this recession.
Some have been saying for some time that the arts were overbuilt in the boom of the 90s when America built some $25 billion worth of new theaters, concert halls and museums (the 90s were the largest expansion of the arts in American history). So maybe a little market adjustment is in the making for the arts. The recession could cost us some of our oldest and most venerable arts organizations. And most certainly, the arts’ middle class will take the biggest hit. Mid-size arts organizations always have the toughest time; they’re too small to have the deep-pocket resources of large institutions, and too big to be able to cut to nothing as the small groups can often do.
So people cheered when $50 million for the arts was included in Congress’ recent stimulus package (first it was in, then it was out, then back in again). But it turns out that the $50 million for the NEA wasn’t the only arts money in the bill. The estimable Robert Lynch from Americans for the Arts says eight other provisions in the bill help artists:
• $50m in additional appropriations for the National Endowment for the Arts;
• $130m for the US Department of Agriculture for rural community facilities, including cultural facilities;
• $160m for the Corporation for National and Community Service where an innovative “Artists Corps” could be initiated;
$150m for the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development
Administration, which could support grants to enhance cultural district
planning and the creative economy;
• A portion of the $589m in
funding for the National Park Service to preserve, repair and
rehabilitate will support workers in the trades and with skills in the
• $1bn for federal Community Development Block Grants,
which provide “bricks and mortar” funding for state and local projects
including some in the arts;
• $3.9bn for the Labour Department’s worker training and employment services, including the creative sector;
Extending access to unemployment insurance and healthcare benefits,
which are important to artists in non-traditional careers.