A Few Words From Debbie
The Important Role of the NEA
For the past few months, our attention has been directed at advocating for the continuation of national arts funding. As you have undoubtedly heard, President Trump has proposed full elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in his budget. As we work to bring focus to issues that affect our region, the Arts Council of Greater Lansing is stepping up to the plate to make our voices heard and share the message that this is not in the best interest of our nation, our state or community. It is important that each of us knows the facts and are able to articulate what we would lose if the NEA were eliminated. We have been working in partnership with Americans for the Arts who provided the facts and figures that are outlined below, in the op-ed that was printed in the "Lansing State Journal" last week.
Viewpoint: National endowment vital for local arts
Since our founding in 1965, the Arts Council of Greater Lansing has played a central role in ensuring the health and vitality of the Capital Region with a mission to support, strengthen and promote arts, culture and creativity.
Our region’s identity and continued economic growth are defined by our arts and culture sector, which includes our cultural organizations, artists and prominent history of creative expression.
As a membership and service organization, providing a collective voice to over 250 dues paying members, the Arts Council believes in supporting the professional growth of arts organizations; working to keep the arts in schools; strengthening the “business of being an artist;” and empowering and coordinating the diverse cultural activities of artists and organizations to make a difference in the lives of those who live, work and visit this region. 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 Stabenow and Peters know that, in Michigan, in 2016 alone, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) awarded a total of $1,965,600 in grant money to 51 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 $770,000 went to Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. The state then matched these federal funds and awarded grants to 328 arts organizations in 112 communities across Michigan.
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. We are proud to say that the Arts Council of Greater Lansing, the City of Lansing, and a handful of other qualifying organizations in our region are direct recipients of funding through the NEA.
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 age-old arguments that eliminating these cultural agencies 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 and certainly not in this community. 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?
Deborah E. Mikula