Federal Arts Funding Update

The following is a statement from Susie Surkamer, Executive Director.

As you may be aware, a number of recent reports have surfaced regarding the potential future of federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. We at South Arts feel it is important to share what we know, and work with all of you to ensure that the value of the nonprofit arts sector is taken into account as policy and budget decisions in the public realm are made.

South Arts is proud to be a Partner Organization of the National Endowment for the Arts. The nation’s six Regional Arts Organizations (RAOs) are an integral part of the public arts ecosystem, partnering with the NEA and our member State Arts Agencies to ensure that people in every state and region have access to high quality arts experiences.

The process for determining federal funding of the nation’s cultural agencies begins with the President’s budget, which we anticipate will be made public in late February. Following the administration’s budget release, the two arms of Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives, respond with their own budget recommendations which, if they differ, are resolved through Joint Committees. This process occurs generally between March and June.

A recent article in “The Hill” referenced the White House wanting to downsize the federal government and eliminate a wide range of federal agencies and offices, including the NEA. This report was never substantiated but does raise questions and concerns by arts advocates. What do we, as a community, want to do to respond to this potential threat to the NEA?

Recently, our Deputy Director Mollie Quinlan-Hayes and I, along with the country’s other Regional Arts Organizations, met with two members of the White House transition team assigned to the National Endowment for the Arts. Their role in transitioning the agency to the new administration involves assessing and reviewing the agency’s work. Both stated very clearly to us that they requested the assignment, support the agency’s underlying mission and that there is no policy at the White house to eliminate the NEA.

What does this mean for you?

South Arts’ funding from the NEA, including for the upcoming FY18 grants cycles, is securely in place for FY18. We are moving forward with our existing grants and other programs.

Advocacy for the arts should be a year-round activity, educating your elected officials about the value of the arts in your community. You should contact your federal, state, and local elected officials and their staff (find yours here) either by a phone call or by scheduling an in-person meeting, during Arts Advocacy Day or at another time. Communicate the value of the arts and your belief that the federal government should support the cultural sector. Share specific stories with them about how the arts enrich your local community. Coordinate with your statewide arts advocacy organization, if your state has one, to determine any local issues of which you should be aware.

You can join the Arts Action Fund for free, and ensure you receive timely information about arts and arts education funding and policy, specific to your elected officials.

South Arts is pleased to be a Co-Sponsor of Americans for the Arts’ National Arts Advocacy Day, March 20-21. Arts Advocacy Day: The National Arts Action Summit is your opportunity to receive crucial advocacy training from experts in the field and then put that training into practice. If you can join us in Washington, D.C. for National Arts Advocacy Day, hundreds of us will be making our voices and priorities clear to our legislators and their staff.

Arts Advocacy Days are also taking place at the state level. Several of those in the South Arts region have passed, but some are still coming up. These are excellent opportunities for you to meet with your legislators and discuss the value of state funding for arts and arts education.

Thank you for the good work you do every day, and please keep telling your story.

Susie Surkamer
Executive Director
South Arts

Thanks to Americans for the Arts and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies for providing information for this update