Fact vs. Fiction: Government Arts Funding
A vigorous democracy periodically debates the role of government and the ways the public sector can best support the prosperity and well-being of its citizens. When those questions turn to the role of government in supporting the arts, make sure the discussion is fueled by the facts!
Fiction: Eliminating the arts will help the government balance its budget.
FACT: The arts return $22.3 billion in revenue to federal, state, county and municipal governments. A strong arts sector makes it easier for our government to balance its books.
Fiction: Cutting government arts programs will save a lot of money.
FACT: The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) receives a mere 0.004% of the total federal budget, less than 1/2 of one hundredth of one percent. Appropriations to state arts agencies constitute just 0.04% of state general funds expenditures, less than one half of one tenth of one percent. Arts cuts will harm communities without achieving real savings.
Fiction: All Republicans want to cut the arts.
FACT: The last time a Republican President occupied the White House (2001-2008), federal appropriations to the NEA increased by $40 million. Republicans held the majority in both houses of Congress for four of those eight years. Support for the arts is pan-partisan. Republicans and Democrats alike have track records of supporting the arts because they know it’s wise economic policy and is popular with constituents.
Fiction: Government support for the arts primarily benefits the urban elite.
FACT: Government arts support ensures that rural communities and low-income groups get their fair share of the educational and economic benefits offered by the arts. 40% of NEA-supported activities take place in high-poverty neighborhoods. While 15% of the U.S. population lives in rural areas, more than 25% of all state arts agency grants go to these communities.
Fiction: Arts organizations are dependent on public dollars.
FACT: Government funding is typically a small slice of the funding pie. For instance, funding from state arts agencies composes only 2.1% of total grantee revenue (source: NASAA analysis of annual statistical reports). However, these small investments pack a big punch: arts organizations use public dollars to generate earned income, secure private contributions and leverage local matching funds. Every $1 of NEA support leverages $9 in matching funds.
Fiction: The private sector will pick up the bill if government arts funding is cut.
FACT: A solely private funding model would leave many American communities behind. Philanthropic giving in the United States is geographically disproportional: rural areas receive only 5.5% of all grant making, a figure that has declined over time. It takes a mixture of both public and private funds to realize the full power of the arts for all Americans.
Five Essential Arts Arguments
In addition to their intrinsic impacts, the arts produce positive community outcomes across the United States. Here are five timely reasons that public support for the arts is a good deal for citizens and for government.
1. The arts enrich the American economy.
Small businesses, individual entrepreneurs and innovators are the heart and soul of the American economy. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis affirms that creative enterprises are a significant part of that equation. Arts and cultural production are growing, providing jobs and tax revenue and generating goods and services in demand by the public. As America enters a new era of international relationships, it’s important to note that creative products generate a trade surplus. The United States exports more arts and cultural products and services than it imports, and that’s positive for job growth and our nation’s overall economy.
2. The arts offer solutions for rural America.
Many rural communities were slow to rebound (or haven’t yet recovered) from the recession. Arts based economic development strategies offer potent, sustainable advantages while preserving the heritage of rural communities. State arts agencies and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) make substantial investments in rural areas, boost the capacity of rural communities to improve their futures and help rural leaders pioneer the next generation of rural development solutions.
3. The arts offer cost-effective health treatments that work.
Arts-integrated treatments produce positive clinical outcomes for our active-duty military and veteran populations. The arts help other patient groups, including older Americans, to recover more quickly from procedures, require shorter hospitalizations, take fewer medications, and maintain their mental, physical and social well-being.
4. The arts improve schooling.
Research proves that the arts raise academic achievement because they teach creative thinking, analytical reasoning, effective communication and collaborative work. These competencies pave the way to student success in school, in the workplace and in life.
5. The arts offer a net gain for government.
State arts agencies and the NEA operate with modest financial resources, lean staffs and as little red tape as possible. They also are highly responsive to citizens, involving the public in agency oversight, planning and funding decisions. In return, the arts yield $22.3 billion in revenue to federal, state, county and municipal governments. Federal arts funding leverages $9 in matching funds for every $1 granted.