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Room for thought: the arts funding discussion continues

posted by Karen McKevitt on Wed, Feb 16, 2011
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The perennial conversation about arts funding locally and nationally has really heated up over the last month, and NEA Chairperson Rocco Landesman’s remarks at Arena Stage’s new play convening was akin to firing up the flamethrower. It seemed only a matter of time before the economic argument turned to the question of supply and demand. The debate hit the New York Times, and Rocco herded the conversation back to the NEA’s blog with a post aptly titled #SupplyDemand – the Twitter hashtag that soon joined “#newplay” in the discussions. You could spend hours bouncing from Arena Stage’s blog to the Times to Twitter, and even to 2AMt – and all the assorted comments.

Our own Managing Director Susan Medak joined the conversation in her comment on the Times blog. Here’s an excerpt:
“Let’s be realistic about the issues, let’s be open to the discussion of these issues but not beat ourselves up for something that is about so much more than whether people do or don't like the arts. It is about large scale changes in social behavior.”

In the meantime, funding cuts threaten the NEA yet again, with the House Appropriations Committee calling for a $22.5 million reduction for fiscal year 2011. If you would like to tell your senators and representatives to support the NEA, the Performing Arts Alliance has a handy form letter that you can personalize and send.

In related news, in case you hadn’t already heard, the Republicans budget proposal includes zeroing out the budget for NPR/PBS. has an online petition encouraging Congress to protect public television and radio.

As we mentioned earlier, state funding for the arts is also under fire, and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies has posted a publication entitled Why Should Government Support the Arts?

Many of these debates and conversations are nothing new, but they’ve certainly taken on an intensity within the context of the continuing recession and high unemployment rates. Stay tuned.


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