It was encouraging to see that President Obama’s Stimulus Package did finally include $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts. Amazingly, there was considerable opposition to these proposals; and, until the last minute, threats to remove this minuscule portion of the nearly $800 billion package from the final version.
Under the Bush administration, support for the arts had been slashed. So, perhaps it was not surprising that there were voices raised that this aid for the Arts would not produce jobs. It transpired, however, that Arts Organizations employs nearly 6 million people across the U.S. Many of these organizations are supported by city budgets, private donations, charities, and fundraisers. All of these are feeling the pinch of the major economic downturn. Help is desperately needed.
We live in an age where school funding for music, theatre, and other creative arts has been relentlessly cut over the years. In this electronic age, young students are actively engaged in text messaging, electronic games, and a barrage of entertainment alternatives. Writing an essay is no longer the norm.
Creative thinking is suffering and many American students enter adulthood having never seen a live play or a concert, opera or the ballet, or even visited a major museum exhibition.
Perhaps, the leaders of the creative arts community are somewhat to blame as they have not pressed their case with successive governments and have allowed this declining support to continue, relying on the private sector to fund their deficits.
However luckily for the arts community, one of the members of Obama’s transition team,
Bill Ivey, a former Chair of the National Endowment of the Arts, stated, “The NEA really can give away money efficiently and effectively and quickly through a very responsible peer review grant-making process.” Ivey believes that a healthy arts community is especially important during hard economic times. “We are not going to be able to think about happiness and quality of life, only in terms of the next vacation or the bigger house, or the new car.” He says,
“Once we move away from a consumerist’s view of a high quality of life – once we are forced away from it – arts and culture, creativity, home-made arts, those things can begin to come to the fore”
Let us hope that this administration led by a President that values history, poetry, good books, and higher standards of education for our children will play an increasing role in making sure that the arts community flourishes.
Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden: www.bearanyburden.com