Arts Advocacy Day

I am just returning from Washington DC, where more than 400 arts activists from across the country, including me and Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams, joined Americans for the Arts for a day of lobbying for increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Bush administration's proposed fiscal year 2008 budget includes $128.4 million for the agency — an increase of $4 million — but arts advocates are calling for an appropriation of $176 million, which would match the agency's all-time-high appropriation in 1992. 40% of the NEA’s budget goes directly to the states for re-granting through state arts agencies (such as the Oregon Arts Commission). Groups like RACC and many of the state's fantastic arts organizations benefit from this support.

Jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, actor Chris Klein, BET co-founder Sheila Johnson, CEO of Raisbeck Engineering James Raisbeck, Mayor David Cicilline of Providence, RI, and Americans for the Arts president and CEO Robert L. Lynch all testified about the importance of federal arts funding before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior. It was the first Congressional hearing on arts funding in 12 years!

The short story is, NEA funding is looking up. Interior Subcommittee Chair, Rep. Norm Dicks, D-WA, said: "Except for a few members of the flat earth society, there is little opposition to this funding. The culture wars are over." Now I don't know that the culture wars are over, and I'm tempted to introduce Rep. Dicks with the NEW emerging thought that the world is actually flat, but clearly there is broader, more universal support for the NEA than we had in the 80s and in the second half of the 1990s.

Oregon's Congressional delegates are all generally supportive of NEA funding, and Congressmen Blumenauer, DeFazio, and Wu in particular have actively sought NEA funding increases in the past. You can be sure I'll let you know if anyone needs to direct sharp focus on a particular Senator or Representative, but in the meantime you can learn more about federal arts funding issues and send a message directly to members of Congress by visiting AFTA's E-Advocacy center.

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