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On Tuesday, President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, passed by Congress late last week. The $787 billion stimulus bill includes considerable appropriations for the National Endowment for the Arts ($50 million for a federal agency with a $245 million budget for the current fiscal year) and Smithsonian Institution ($25 million, but cut from the House’s original request of $150 million). Language that, in the Senate version of the act, would have excluded museums, theaters, and arts centers from receiving federal funds was removed from the final legislation.

Casey Selix and Cynthia Dizikes of MinnPost.com report:

According to the bill, the NEA money is “to be distributed in direct grants to fund arts projects and activities which preserve jobs in the non-profit arts sector threatened by declines in philanthropic and other support during the current economic downturn.” Forty percent of the money is to be distributed to state arts agencies and regional arts councils . . . and 60 percent for “competitively selected projects.”

Helen Stoilas from the Art Newspaper and Robin Pogrebin at the New York Times have also reported on the arts portion of the stimulus bill.

In a press release from last week, Americans for the Arts argued that 100,000 nonprofit arts organizations and their audiences generate $166.2 billion annually in US economic activity, supporting 5.7 million jobs and providing nearly $30 billion in government revenue. While politicians debated the merits of including the arts in the economic-recovery package, some stood firm. On the House floor last Friday, Congressman David Obey (D-WI) stated: “There are five million people who work in the arts industry. And right now they have 12.5 percent unemployment—or are you suggesting that somehow if you work in that field, it isn’t real when you lose your job, your mortgage, or your health insurance? We’re trying to treat people who work in the arts the same way as anybody else.”

The New York Times has published a full breakdown of the $787 billion, although arts and education funding don’t appear in standalone categories. However, Doug Lederman at Inside Higher Ed once again lists higher-education allotments in the House and Senate bills, as well as amounts in the final compromise that was approved by President Obama.

While groups like Americans for the Arts and CAA applaud the provisions for art and education in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, others point out larger issues. In the Wall Street Journal, Greg Sandow writes that “Fifty million dollars . . . is just a bubble on a wave” and feels that arguments about the economic value of the arts need closer examination. Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes also casts a skeptical eye on the NEA funding, suggesting that people in the arts should “join Washington’s think-tank culture . . . to develop new ideas about how government should be involved in the arts (and not just in one little agency, but across the federal apparatus).”



Filed under: Government and Politics

 

Yesterday the US Senate passed its version of an $838 billion stimulus bill, entitled the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, with a 61 to 37 vote. The legislation included the Coburn Amendment, which eliminated a $50 millionprovision for the National Endowment for the Arts that was included in the House of Representatives’ bill. The amendment, voted on last week, passed 73 to 24.

The Senate legislation, as Eddy Ramírez reports for US News and World Report, “is stripped of, among other funds, $16 billion for school construction and $40 billion more for states to fund schools.”

The Washington Post lists how senators voted on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. CAA encourages you to show your approval or disapproval to your congressional representatives, using Americans for the Arts’ Capwiz feature to send a customized letter.



Filed under: Government and Politics

THIS WEEK AT THE ROSE ART MUSEUM

posted by Linda Downs


News about the closing of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University and the selling of its collection slowed down this week, but not without several highlights. Brandeis President Jehuda Reinharz issued a formal apology—not for the decision to dismantle the museum’s collection but rather for his mishandling the announcement to do so. He also regretted leaving out the Brandeis community in the board of trustees’ deliberations.

Michael Rush, director of the Rose, posted his statement on the closing and sale directly to his museum’s website this week. The university’s Department of Fine Arts also joined the chorus of protest voices, issuing a statement to all university faculty, students, alumni, and friends of the department. Also, the New York Times condemned the Brandeis decision in an article by Roberta Smith and in an unsigned editorial.

Jeff Gilbride of the Daily News Tribune in Waltham, Massachusetts, was at the “funeral march” held this week by Brandeis students as an “emotional and rowdy counterpart” to last week’s sit-in at the museum. Relatedly, Jeff Weistein fromObit wonders, “Can a Museum Die?”

Greg Cook reviews the current exhibition at the Rose, Hans Hoffmann: Circa 1950, for the Boston Phoenix, and Daniel Grant considers donor responses and restrictions on gifts in his article “Is the University’s Museum Just a Rose to Be Plucked?” for the Wall Street Journal.

The Rose Art Museum website is chronicling the press on the closing and sale. Laurie Fendrich has been passionately following the story in the Chronicle Review, the blog of the Chronicle of Higher Education. And, of course, theBoston Globe has been leading the charge with daily reports.



NEA NAMES NEW ACTING CHAIRMAN

posted by Linda Downs


The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced yesterday the appointment of Patrice Walker Powell as acting chairman. In this position, she will provide oversight for agency grantmaking and day-to-day agency operations and supervise administrative activities. She assumed the role on January 29.

In 2008, Powell was appointed deputy chairman for states, regions, and local arts agencies. In that role, she was responsible for managing the agency’s grants and special projects involving a national network of governmental and nonprofit partners; small grant programs such as Challenge America Fast-Track; and the NEA’s AccessAbility activities that are also carried out in conjunction with state and regional organizations. Powell has been a staff member at the NEA since 1991.

In addition, Anita Decker was appointed by the White House as NEA director of government affairs effective February 4. In this role she manages the endowment’ relations with Congress and the White House, international and federal partnership programs, and the operations of the National Council on the Arts. Previously, Decker was on the staff of President Barack Obama’s election campaign.



Filed under: Government and Politics

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