Thursday, February 19, 2009

Arts Funding: Economic Stimulus or Joke?

The National Endowment for the Arts received $50 million in the Economic Stimulus bill. Unfortunately, it's become a joke on right wing blogs and talk radio. Do they think artists don't work? Is building a car intrinsically better than painting a picture? I just don't get it - maybe if a conservative happens to read this, he (I'm sure it will be a he) will enlighten me with a comment.

Let's look at the economic effects of art in Natchez. Many of you know that I was involved in founding ArtsNatchez Inc, a nonprofit with the mission of "promoting the arts in the greater Natchez area". We provide a Gallery where over 30 local artists can display and sell their art. While none of those artists can support themselves on what they earn from ArtsNatchez, it does help to make it possible for them to stay in Natchez and earn a living. Many of those artists came here from New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast after Katrina. But they stayed because they discovered they could work here. That's a lot of wage earners living in Natchez and spending their money.

But even more important, artists bring money to a community. As I've written about previously (here and here), art is Big Business - and it feeds on itself. The more art a town has, the more money it attracts. Natchez is a growing arts community. In addition to ArtsNatchez, we also have other relatively new businesses - Burns Pottery, Natchez Clay, Natchez Artists Association, Natchez Art & Framing, Southern Interiors - to name a few.

So what does this have to do with the Economic Stimulus Bill? ArtsNatchez is supported entirely by donations from generous local patrons. However, like other nonprofits, we're suffering during this economic crisis, because many of our patrons have been affected. Although ArtsNatchez will probably survive, many art nonprofits will not. When they fail, all those economic benefits will disappear as well.

Fifty million dollars is a drop in the bucket considering the whole package, but this money can enable thousands and thousands of nonprofits all across the country to stay open - and maintain the economic benefits in their communities. This is exactly what the legislation is for. These organizations don't need lots of money, the money is only needed temporarily, and it produces major economic benefits. Fortunately, Congress agreed and kept the money in the package.


Elizabeth said...

Life isn't worth living without art.

eagle1 said...

Life would definately suck without art. But sorry, I don't think it's the government's job/function to fund it, provide for it or even promote it. It's shouldn't be a taxpayers burden.

Casey Ann said...

It's not the government's job to fund banks and car companies either. But if you're trying to jump start the economy, the arts are a very good place to invest.

Marty Ellerbe said...

Casey Ann, by moving here did those 30 artists create 30 new jobs, or did they move into jobs already available?

I am unsure as well about the statment that where more arts are found more money is found, at least insofar as arts being the cause for the appearance of money. Could it not just as well be that artists seek patrons, so tend to locate where the patrons are?

Casey Ann said...


Those were new jobs. They are self employed and created their jobs.

An art community attracts outsiders - tourists - to visit and spend their money. Art patrons, who usually have surplus disposable income, are attracted to art communities and will travel to visit them. They will also spend money at other local businesses.

Art is also a big part of what makes a community attractive to new businesses that look at overall quality of life issues.

eagle1 said...

Let me say that I don't oppose art. That would be silly. I just don't see art as a daily need like say, water or food. It shouldn't be government funded. I'm against the funding of PBS and NPR also. If you can't make it on the radio without public support, bye bye.

I agree it's not the governments job to fund banks and car companies. I'm against the stimulus package. None of those things will jump start our economy because it still leaves people (you and me) without money. TAX CUTS FOR GOD SAKES puts money in our pockets. It's been proven time and time again. Cut taxes, for the rich also, and the economy gets going.