National Endowment for the Arts vital to our community

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I am an artist, an arts educator, and an arts administrator, currently serving as the Executive Director of Arts Connection, the arts council for San Bernardino County. We are a small, non-profit organization, established in 2012, and do our best to bring arts programming into our communities with very limited resources.

Many people are shocked to learn that Arts Connection does not receive ongoing financial support from San Bernardino County. Instead, like many small arts organizations, we primarily rely on grant dollars for our survival. Communities across America have a stake in the arts, including our own. According to Americans for the Arts, 4.8 million Americans work in arts and culture industries. Additionally, the arts generate $22.3 billion in federal, state, and local government revenue.

The major driver of arts initiatives across the country is the National Endowment for the Arts. The NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts.

I want to make sure that Senators Feinstein and Harris know that, in California, in 2016 alone, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) awarded a total of $9,520,100 in grant money to 344 nonprofit and governmental arts organizations.

These grants worked to enhance access to the arts for all, especially in underserved rural and inner-city areas. Of this NEA funding, over $1.1 million went to California Arts Council. The state then matched these federal funds and awarded grants to 284 arts organizations in 93 communities across California.

The NEA’s goals are fulfilled primarily through direct grants, reviewed and recommended by panels of citizen experts, to arts organizations across the country. NEA grants provide a significant return on investment of federal dollars with $1 of NEA direct funding leveraging up to $9 in private and other public funds, resulting in $500 million in matching support in 2016.

Why? Because winning an NEA grant sends a clear message that the grantee is operating an impactful local program of top national quality. In 2016 alone, the NEA recommended more than 2,400 grants in nearly 16,000 communities in every Congressional District in the country.

What’s more, 40 percent of NEA-supported activities take place in high-poverty neighborhoods. Thirty-six percent of NEA grants go to organizations that reach underserved populations such as people with disabilities, people in institutions, and veterans.

The NEA has been able to do all these things and more on a meager budget of $148 million. President Trump’s proposed budget for FY 2018 calls for an elimination of the NEA, among other cultural agencies like the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Please don’t believe those dusty, old arguments to eliminate these cultural agencies because it would reduce the deficit or the size of government. We simply cannot afford to cut back on our federal investment in the arts and culture in this country.

According to the latest news from U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, the arts and culture contribute 4.23 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product. That’s $729 billion per year. It’s one of the very few economic industries that yield a trade surplus of $26 billion and generates 4.8 million American jobs that cannot be outsourced out of the country.

Can we afford to lose the profound impact of the NEA in our state, community, and schools?

Danielle Giudici Wallis – Redlands

1 COMMENT

  1. Danielle: Thank you for spreading the message of the importance arts funding in our small, rural areas. STUDIO 395 was an NEA Our Town recipient in 2016 and we are just finishing up our grant year next month. We are a non-profit arts cooperative operating out of Lake Elsinore. Our grant will help with establishing an art creation and sales venue and was matched in funding by the City of Lake Elsinore; additionally we have paid teachers and bought supplies to provide free instruction on all types of art medium to local residents. During this year we have also taken over operations of a Riverside County Community Center in unincorporated Lakeland Village that is arts focused, and will be offering traditional visual arts but also theatre, ceramics, maker arts classes, leatherwork, language arts and dance. As part of the City Subcommittee for Art and Culture, we enacted a buskers ordinance to allow for street art and performance in Lake Elsinore and help to stimulate foot traffic and, thus, revenue for the small businesses in the historic downtown area. We know that arts programs, venues, celebrations will impact the local economy positively and bring paid work for artist and generate the type of art experiences that will encourage new artists. It’s a win win and we persistently pushed this with our city. Took a few years but it’s working out great now.

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