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States cutting arts funding for 2004

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This has been a subject of considerable interest and alarm for over a year -- the Yahoo article is succinct, but if you'd like to follow up on some of this, Doug McLennan's excellent general arts journalism site ArtsJournal <www.artsjournal.com> has been posting links to articles around the country on the topic. This continued dwindling of "public" money means that arts organizations are even more dependent on earned income and donations from private sources (as in the thread discussing "naming" gifts on this site)

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Research shows that individual donors in America give twice as much to not-for-profit organizations as do corporations, government and foundations combined. This also holds true for arts organizations.

The drop in government funding is certainly very regrettable as a sign of how unimportant the arts are to our elected officials. But it does not signal the end of the arts in America.

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Your statistics are interesting. I am a CPA, and do a lot of tax work. My experience (in my small part of the world) is that individuals do give much more than people are inclined to do through their businesses. However, (keep in mind I live in the Bible Belt), a huge proportion of the donations I see, go to churches and church-related organizations. In my practice, I just don't see much going to arts organizations. At best, I see people donating money to public television.

There is a local arts organization that has member organizations - art gallery, symphony, theatre, natural history museum, etc. This is heavily supported by local industry. In most cases when my clients think they are donating money to these organizations, they are actually buying tickets to performances, an not really making donations.

I assume the statistics you quote are national statistics? My slice of the pie is so small. And, many times when I travel to other parts of the country, I realize how unusual our little pocket of the world is - politically, culturally, and otherwise. In Texas you have to travel a fairly good distance to be away from Texas, and to realize that there are those other 49 states!


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Its not just arts funding that is being cut; its basic services in a lot of places. The states, as a group, are in their worst budget shape since the Great Depression. There are a lot of reasons for this--the poor economy tends to depress revenues generated by sales and income taxes, state legislatures and governors couldn't resist providing big tax cuts which reduced surpluses (and money available to use when the economy is leaner and revenues are down) in the boom years of the mid and late 90s, shifts in spending at the Federal level, resulting in less Federal help for state governments, additional mandates putting additional demands on state treasuries--all of these things create real hard choices for state governments, most of whom are not permitted by their constitutions to run deficits. So, legislators and governors tend to look at the arts as a lower priority than say, prisons, or education, or social services.

There's another element to this too. One of the other posters said that the arts just don't rate with legislators. That is true, but lets not let the general public off the hook. There seems to be a real disconnect in people's minds between the taxes they are willing to pay and the services they want. People say they want good schools, or good roads, but then they get outraged that they might have to pay higher taxes for those things. There also is a mindset out there where people don't want to pay taxes for services that they do not receive an immediate benefit from. (Example, the people that get upset about paying taxes to support public schools when they don't have kids in the school system.) I know I don't live in California, but they just recalled a governor largely because their state budget was a mess. But the first thing the new governor did, and some people voted for him because he said he was going to do this, was repeal an automobile tax that would add significantly to the budget shortfall.

I don't know what the right level of services, including help to the arts, that government should provide or the right level of taxation to support those things. But these are things that should be discussed and people should be interested in. Unfortunately, more people seem to care about Ben and Jen than care about these kind of policy choices.

Sorry to go on about such policy wonk stuff. I work in a position where I have a pretty good view of this kind of stuff and so its easy to get off on a rant.


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Good points.

On another forum there was a discussion about educating people about the arts - whether ballet, or other arts. Where I live, people really do not see the benefit of fostering creativity through exposure to fine arts. Football is king, and sports in general rule.

There are pockets of people who get it, but they are really in a minority. My family (husband, dd, and me) see ourselves as ambassadors for ballet. Of all the arts, it is the least represented, and understood in our area. We did have a lot of friends come to see our Nut (the first one presented locally in over 20 years). The response was wonderful.

As with many other forms of enlightenment, we all have a role to play.

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The drop in government funding is certainly very regrettable as a sign of how unimportant the arts are to our elected officials.  But it does not signal the end of the arts in America.

You are quite right, but I am still disheartened about the diminution of government support for the arts since it suggests that the arts are not a part of our national life, that they are not part of what our culture exists to nurture.


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