Many of us in the theatre community are excited about the new Obama administration and what it could mean for future support and funding of the arts. Playgoer has a really great post on the subject:
I'd rather put my trust in the state rather than The Nation-State. I trust each state (and local/city/municipal governments) to calculate the value of their arts orgs' contributions to their economy, tourism, and public image. Local government arts "czars" can be more responsive to individual arts institutions--and can even attend them!
Yes, there's state programs now. (And in New York NYSCA is already a big deal.) But think how much further that could go. I've personally had it with dreams of some "National Theatre" in the US--but I really like the sound of, say, "The Michigan State Theatre"!
I raise this now knowing full well it is the state funding of the arts that's really going down the toilet in this recession/depression. And that's a big shame. The best thing the NEA could do right now, for my money, is to simply inject its relatively healthy national budget into all these state agencies in a kind of blood transfusion.
I fully agree with his assessment. Arts funding needs to be targeted at the State and local level. Now, correct me if I'm wrong (please, because I very well might be wrong here), but isn't this how it already works? It was my understanding that the NEA, by design, distributes money to artists by filtering it through state and local agencies. Are we just suggesting that we increase the percentage of the total that gets distributed to the states? What would we be doing differently?
Also, regarding this passage:
Over the years, the size of this national arts "endowment" goes up. goes down, always by pennies, it seems. The truth is, it will never, never reach the per-capita levels of the most meager European culture ministries.
I remember reading somewhere (I think it was Abbing's Why Are Artists Poor?) that American and European support of the arts is effectively the same. European taxes are higher so they have tons of money to support government-funded arts and culture programs. US taxes are lower, so government funding of the arts is relatively small. But private funding of the arts is far greater in the US than it is in Europe, thanks to our friend the 501(c)3. So even though the US and Europe employ different methods of funding the arts, when you compare the numbers the end result is the same.