As the federal federal stimulus legislation worked its way through Congress this past week, it bent and shifted more quickly than we at Culture Shock were able to keep up with while holding down our full-time jobs and evening arts activities. But we were monitoring events closely through Americans for the Arts, RACC's federal advocacy update page, Art Scatter and other helpful resources.

The shit hit the fan yesterday (Friday) when the U.S. Senate, during their consideration of the economic recovery bill, approved an egregious amendment offered by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) that stated:
None of the amounts appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, art center, and highway beautification project.

Unfortunately, the amendment passed by a wide vote margin of 73-24, and surprisingly included support from many high profile Senators including Chuck Schumer of New York, Dianne Feinstein of California, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, and our own Democratic Senators Wyden and Merkley.


For more background on the amendment and why it's so completley unacceptable, visit this fine article at Art Scatter. Although there is still hope that the Coburn amendment language might not be included in the final conference version of this legislation, many arts groups will be prevented from receiving economic recovery funds from any portion of this specific stimulus bill if the amendment remains intact. It is clear that there is still much work to be done in the Senate and in the media about the role that nonprofit arts organizations and artists play in the nation’s economy and workforce. So here, dear readers, is what you can do to help.

  1. Arts advocates need to quickly contact Senators Wyden and Merkley and express our extreme disappointment in them for voting for the Coburn Amendment. We need these Senators to know that their vote would detrimentally impact nonprofit arts organizations and the jobs they support in their state. Americans for the Arts has crafted a customized message that can be sent automatically to the appropriate Senator simply by entering your zip code. (For our friends from out of state, the system will recognize if your Senator voted against the Coburn Amendment and will send them a thank you letter instead.)

  2. There need to be as many news articles as possible this coming week to publish stories about the economic impact of the nonprofit arts industry and how the recession is negatively affecting arts groups across the country. AFTA and RACC are collaborating on customizable editorial messages for the local media; click here to see AFTA's easy-to-use talking points and submit a Letter to the Editor of your own!

  3. Next week, Americans for the Arts will tell us which Senators and Representatives are serving as conferees to the final economic recovery bill. Please be prepared to take action next week as well.

  4. Americans for the Arts is purchasing full-page ads titled “The Arts = Jobs” in Washington’s top political newspapers in Roll Call, Politico and The Hill on Monday and Tuesday of next week. I encourage you to post the ad on your social network sites.
I was a little upset with Americans for the Arts for underestimating the potential for the Coburn amendment to succeed in the first place, but appreciate their help now in mobilizing the arts community with some of the resources listed above that can help us all take action in response to this upsetting development. Now, Go! Fight! Win!


Anonymous said...

That automated AFTA messaging system is very slick. It lets you customize the text of your letter however you want, but here's the default:

Dear Senator xxx:

I am disappointed that you voted for S.Amdt.309 offered by Sen. Tom Coburn (Roll Call #51) which prohibits funding for "museums, theaters, and arts centers" in the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act.

There are approximately 100,000 nonprofit arts organizations, which spend $63.1 billion annually. Without an economic stimulus for the nonprofit arts industry, experts expect about 10% of these organizations (ranging from large arts institutions like museums and orchestras to small community-based organizations in suburban, urban and rural areas) to shut their doors in 2009 – a loss of 260,000 jobs.

According to the Americans for the Arts, a $50 million investment to the National Endowment for the Arts will provide critical funding to save 14,422 jobs from being lost in the U.S. economy. This is based on the ability of the NEA to leverage $7 in additional support through local, state and private donations, for every $1 in NEA support.

In a report released in mid-January, the National Governor's Association stated, "Arts and culture are important to state economies. Arts and culture-related industries, also known as "creative industries," provide direct economic benefits to states and communities: They create jobs, attract investments, generate tax revenues, and stimulate local economies through tourism and consumer purchases."

I hope that you will agree to remove the arts-related language from the final legislation and include funding for the nonprofit arts community in conference.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for helping to spread the word. Call/write your Senators, write a letter to the editor and join the facebook group "Support Arts Funding in the Economic Stimulus Package."

MightyToyCannon said...

Thanks for keeping us posted on this important issue. I've sent my messages to Wyden and Merkley. I fear that the arts are being sacrificed on the altar of bigger issues in this round. Our senators know how we feel and agree with us, but are taking an expedient route of political compromise to create a figment of bipartisanship. Personally, I think it's time to tell the Republican obstructionists "Enough! You people lost the election. It's our turn to try a few ideas out."