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Government Funding of the Arts

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Submitted By cmmosby
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How Would You Change Government Arts Funding?
The arts are a vital to our society, it helps us understand the past and future, and constantly provides us with a reminder of what we can offer to this world. In an address about the arts for students and the spouses of international leaders, our first lady Michelle Obama stated, “It is through our music, our literature, our art, drama and dance that we tell the story of our past and we express our hopes for the future. Our artists challenge our assumptions in ways that many cannot and do not. They expand our understandings, and push us to view our world in new and very unexpected ways. It's through this constant exchange -- this process of taking and giving, this process of borrowing and creating -- that we learn from each other and we inspire each other.” (Boehm, "Michelle Obama Tells International Audience Why the Arts Matter") It’s easy to see why keeping the arts alive should be a priority of our generation. We must find ways to support creativity, innovation, and artistic talent in any way that we can. The arts in America depends on a mixture of both public and private funding to stay alive. Since 1965, the US federal government has provided funding to the arts through an independent agency called the National Endowment for the Arts, or NEA. The goals of the agency include “the creation of art meeting the highest standards of excellence, engaging the public with diverse and excellent art, and promoting public knowledge and understanding about the contributions of the arts.” (“Strategic Plan & Five-Year Audit Plan”) The NEA partners with federal agencies, state agencies, local leaders, and the philanthropic

sector to offer grants for artist communities, arts education, dance, design, folk and traditional arts, literature, local arts agencies, media arts, museums, music, musical theater, opera, presenting, theater, and visual arts. Anyone wishing to receive a grant from the NEA must submit an application to the Arts Endowment. These applications are reviewed on the basis of artistic excellence and artistic merit, and priority funding is given to projects that encourage art in underserved populations, and projects that promote public knowledge, education, and appreciation of the arts. Qualified applications are reviewed by National Council on the Arts, comprised of renowned artists, distinguished scholars, and arts patrons who make recommendations and send them to the NEA chairman who makes the final decision on all grant awards. (Ball, "National Endowment for the Arts 2014 Guide”) The NEA is not the only source of support for the arts, payments to the arts from private companies and individuals are an extremely necessary supplementation to the funding that the NEA gives. The 2012 National Endowment for the Arts budget was $146 million. Supplemental to that the nation’s top 1% of people on the income distribution paid $55 million to the arts, and the top 10% paid $102 million. Donations to arts organizations are deductible from federal income taxes, making it an easy choice for those with a significant amount of income to support the arts. (Marotta, "Public Funding for the Arts")
I think we need to keep a good mixture of both government and private funding, but make changes to the government funding so that the taxpayers can decide what art projects are being funded by their money. I believe that government has an important role in creating opportunities for art, but I think it’s unfair for the NEA to be able to decide which art projects are worthy of being funded by the government. However, being an agency put in place by the federal government, the NEA simply can’t fund programs that may offend people or cause any sort of

controversy. The idea behind having to set standards and qualifications to art is a touchy one that may people don’t agree with, myself included. I think the government should continue to fund the arts, but needs to find a way to let Americans decide where their tax money goes in terms of what art projects are being funded. I think government should raise the funding for the arts through taxes, but should put an optional box on our tax forms to let each individual choose which non-profit they would like to. By letting taxpayers decide what projects will be funded, the issue of people having to pay for projects they don’t approve of will be resolved. The NEA will no longer have to decide which projects should be funded on the basis of how they believe the US should be represented. Having no application process will create a less restricted environment for the creators of art that will increase creativity.
The importance of arts is obvious, but it comes with a price. In my opinion, education of the arts is one of the most important things we can give the children of this country. I love the fact that the NEA currently gives priority funding to projects that encourage art in underserved populations, and projects that promote public knowledge, education, and appreciation of the arts. (“Importance of Federal Funding for the Arts”) No matter what happens in the scope of how the arts is funded in the future, we must keep in mind that priority funding towards education of the arts can provide people with a better connection to the world, and will open doors for many.

Works Cited "Importance of Federal Funding for the Arts." Tcg. Theatre Communications Group, Web. 15

Nov. 2014.

Strategic Plan & Five-Year Audit Plan. National Endowment for the Arts, Oct. 2013. Web. 15

Nov. 2014.

Boehm, Mike. "Michelle Obama Tells International Audience Why the Arts Matter." Los

Angeles Times. N.p., 25 Sept. 2009. Web. 15 Nov. 2014.

Ball, Don. "National Endowment for the Arts 2014 Guide." (Jan. 2014): n. pag. Office

of Public Affairs. Web.

Marotta, Davie J. "Public Funding for the Arts." Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 9 Sept. 2012. Web.

15 Nov. 2014.

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