Let’s be real, y’all, this economy is scary for everyone. And as many artists (and museums, galleries, curators, and critics) unfortunately already know, it can be almost impossible to make a living working in an art-related field even in the best of financial times. Present economy aside, arts funding has already been hit hard in recent years–states have cut their arts budgets by $100 million in the last two years alone. With dwindling art-field opportunities and a devastating turn of events in the economy, what happens to artists?
Fortunately, there’s some hope: Obama seems to understand the importance of art, artists, and art as a profession. He enters his presidency as the most arts-friendly candidate we’ve seen in our lifetime, having already given lip service to ideas like dispatching “art corps” to schools (an idea W&TW definitely believes in) and tax benefits and affordable health care for artists. You can download his entire arts platform here. Only time will tell if he’s actually able to implement these ideas with so much on his plate, but with tons of arts leaders lobbying for him to increase the presence of the arts in his cabinet (did you sign the Secretary of the Arts petition yet? Do it!) let’s hope he can be duly persuaded to make the arts a priority.
Meanwhile, the National Endowment for the Arts, which has seen its funding slashed by 30 percent in the past 15 years, is slated for a pick-me-up via the American Recovery and Reinvestment bill, which includes a $50 million NEA supplement to be distributed directly to non-profit arts organizations. The bill has been approved by the House Appropriations committee and could make it to the President’s desk by mid-February if it passes in the House and Senate. Fingers crossed.
So we cautiously hope that funding for the arts isn’t going to totally die–in fact, the wretched economy might even be prove to be a good catalyst for examining and redressing the shabby treatment the arts have received in the U.S. in recent years.
And hey, as our country sinks further into the Great Depression II, at the very least we might get some super sweet public art out of it, Works Progress Administration-style! Let’s brush up on our mural painting skills everybody.