Update: No Funds for the Arts in the Stimulus Bill

We recently received a message for a friend within the industry about the situation that the Arts are in with regards to the Stimulus bill laid out by congress. Please read the entire message and let your voice be heard about how this bill can harm, not help our industry.

On Tuesday afternoon the US Senate passed it’s version of the American Recovery And Reinvestment Act Of 2009. Included in the final version of the bill was Senator Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) amendment that stated “None of the amounts appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, art center, and highway beautification project.”

This bill, along with the House of Representatives’ version, will now go into conference to reach a compromise bill which will then be sent to both houses of Congress for a vote. If it passes both votes, it will be sent to the President for his signature or veto.

I do not think I need to tell you that the stimulus bill reaching the President’s desk with this amendment attached would be a disaster for those of us working in almost any segment of the arts.

The issue here is not even that there is no funding for the arts (that is another fish that will need fying), but that no part of this 800 billion dollar stimulus would be allowed, under Federal law, to be used for any arts or other cultural project. Thus a state or local government that wanted to revitalize an area would not be able to use these funds to build a theatre, a museum, a stadium. The kind of attractions that draw patrons not only to the type venues mentioned, but to shops and restaurants in the area. Producing income for those establishments and providing jobs to those who work in them.

The non- profit arts advocacy group, Americans For The Arts( www.artsusa.org ), conducted an economic impact study related to the effect not for profit arts organizations have in the communities around them:

“This study demonstrates that the nonprofit arts and culture industry is an economic driver in communities—a growth industry that supports jobs, generates government revenue, and is the cornerstone of tourism.

Nationally, the nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $166.2 billion in economic activity every year—$63.1 billion in spending by organizations and an additional $103.1 billion in event-related spending by their audiences. The study is the most comprehensive study of the nonprofit arts and culture industry ever conducted. It documents the economic impact of the nonprofit arts and culture industry in 156 communities and regions (116 cities and counties, 35 multicounty regions, and five states), and represents all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The $166.2 billion in total economic activity has a significant national impact, generating the following:

  • 5.7 million full-time equivalent jobs
  • $104.2 billion in household income
  • $7.9 billion in local government tax revenues
  • $9.1 billion in state government tax revenues
  • $12.6 billion in federal income tax revenues”

We have a limited amount of time to act. President Obama has expressed his desire to sign the stimulus bill into law by President’s Day, a mere five days from now. I would urge everyone to contact their Senator and Congressman and express your desire to have Sen. Coburn’s amendment, or any other language that restricts funding to arts and cultural institutions, stricken from the final bill sent before both houses. Americans For The Arts has an online form you can use to send an email to your legislative representatives.


In addition, more media attention must be brought to bear on this aspect of the stimulus story. On Tuesday I spoke with someone in the Washington, DC office of Americans For The Arts, and he confirmed for me that outside of a few tiny regional outlets, no print or broadcast journalist is focusing on the impact the stimulus bill could have on the arts and culture segment of the economy. Please take a few moments to contact your local news organizations and ask them why they are not looking into this side of the story. You can contact up to five media outlets at the following link:


I also know that NPR has a story suggestion form: http://www.npr.org/about/pitch/story.html

Finally, I would ask you to contact the Obama Administration and urge them to order their legislative liaisons to work to get this language off of the final bill. president@whitehouse.gov