What is the state of the arts in our government?

By Armando Huipe
Staff Writer

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Photo by Armando Huipe

On the heels of the first federal government shutdown in 17 years, all non-essential government functions have halted. Some of the more benign effects include the shutdown of the Giant Panda Cam, don’t worry the panda will still be fed. However, even before the September congressional summer recess, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) in a statement described the National Endowment for the Arts as a “lower priority or ‘nice-to-have’ program,” when discussing a potential 49% budget cut to the NEA.

So, what does the government shutdown mean for the arts? According to the NEA website, your grant is not in jeopardy because the funds have already been obligated. You may continue with the project and continue to submit payment requests, but submissions will not be acknowledged or acted upon until normal operations resume. NEA staff will not be able to answer questions, calls, or emails until a continuing resolution is passed.

A continuing resolution would continue to fund the NEA at the amount before shutdown, $146 million. But on July 31st of this year, the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee considered a bill for the 2014 Fiscal Year that would fund the NEA at $75 million, which would be the lowest appropriation for the NEA since 1974. According to the advocacy group Americans for the Arts, the non-profit arts sector (which means those eligible for NEA grants) generates $135 billion (with a “b”) in economic activity and returns $9.6 billion (again, with a “b”) in federal income taxes.

The NEA funds grants in every congressional district in the country. Every representative’s district stands to benefit from NEA funding. According to Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office (D-CA) the president supports restoring the NEA’s funding to pre-sequestration levels at $154 million. Even though we are far from a place where arts funding can be a key issue, Americans for the Arts offer resources on how you can let your representative know just how important the arts are to you and others in your district, otherwise your representative will pick other battles.

In the meantime, we will have to wait and watch what appears to be a juicy “House of Cards” episode unfold on our television screens.

Make your voice heard, my friends. By following this link to take action and let your representatives know how important NEA funding is to your district.

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