posted by admin — Mar 16, 2002
CAA cosponsored Arts Advocacy Day on March 11-12, 2002, hosted by Americans for the Arts, and Jefferson Day on March 21-22, 2002, hosted by the National Humanities Alliance (NHA), in Washington, D.C. Both events brought together a broad cross-section of national cultural organizations, academics, and grassroots arts leaders to promote the arts, arts education, and humanities to Congress through increased support for the federal cultural agencies.
In addition to requesting more funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), CAA representatives Marta Teegen and Paul Skiff focused on two key policy issues on Arts Advocacy Day this year: grants for individual artists and fair-market-value tax deductions for artists.
Concerning grants for individual artists, Teegen and Skiff argued that the NEA has always sought to promote America�s cultural heritage and values both domestically and abroad through these grants. Specifically, NEA grants have supported and encouraged ingenuity, freedom of expression, and risk taking. Since Congress eliminated grants to individual artists in 1995, the NEA has placed the majority of its emphasis on education and access programs. To remove artists from the grants program, however, leaves this national arts-funding initiative without positive examples of individual achievement, which provide high standards upon which to base educational goals. A program for funding the arts that does not have examples of individual professional achievement, much less encourage ingenuity and risk taking, does not allow the U.S. to establish cultural authority or credibility worldwide. Therefore, it is necessary that the NEA recognize individual artists with longstanding achievement, and encourage them to be outspoken with their unique viewpoints and innovative, advanced ideas. After all, it is artists who are recognized by the national and international public for being positive examples of American cultural leadership.
While making several congressional visits during Arts Advocacy Day, Teegen and Skiff met with other arts advocates. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these advocates scoffed at our attempt to reestablish a dialogue with our elected officials about grants to individual artists, more often than not stating that ours is a lost cause. To be sure, if arts advocates from around the country are afraid or unwilling to broach this important subject with members of Congress, then it will, sadly, forever be lost. We therefore strongly urge all CAA members to engage your elected officials in a dialogue about the importance of grants to individual artists and to ask them to sponsor legislation that will fund them.
On the issue of fair-market-value tax deductions for artists, CAA has been an advocate for pending legislation for well over a year now. Sponsored by Amo Houghton (R-Corning, NY) and Ben Cardin (D-Baltimore, MD) in the House and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Robert Bennett (R-UT) in the Senate, the proposed legislation would allow artists to deduct the donation of an artwork at its full market value. This will greatly aid museums and other nonprofit recipients of art gifts by making the donation process easier and more valuable for the donor. In all likelihood, the bill will be amended to a larger tax bill; however, it is unclear whether or not there will be such a tax bill this year.
For Jefferson Day, a humanities advocacy event that focuses on increasing support for the NEH, Teegen and CAA�s executive director, Susan Ball, met with several members of the Senate Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies�the group that oversees funding for federal cultural agencies. We explained that NEA and NEH Challenge Grants have allowed CAA to offer awards to individuals from traditionally underrepresented populations at the professional level in museums and universities through its Professional Development Fellowship Program. CAA director of marketing and communications and a New Jersey resident, Richard Selden, also participated in visits (organized by Princeton University’s Office of Government Affairs) to the offices of several New Jersey members of Congress. Unfortunately, the NEH falls under the radar in most congressional offices. We need to help raise the agency�’s profile-to increase awareness of the work that it makes possible, including support for art-historical research and exhibitions, and to improve the understanding of its mission. CAA will continue to work with the National Humantities Alliance, a nonpartisan advocacy group in Washington, D.C., of which CAA is a member, to address these issues.
Also during Jefferson Day, CAA and the NHA cosponsored a reception at the Folger Shakespeare Library in honor of the new NEH chair, Bruce Cole, an art historian. It was well attended by congressional staff, humanities advocates, and NEH staff members.
As reported in the March/April issue of CAA News, President George W. Bush’s budget, which was released in February of this year, calls for modest increases in the NEA’s and NEH’s budgets in FY 2003, just enough to cover the costs associated with the proposed legislative change in accounting for retirement and health benefits costs; thus, program budgets for the two agencies are nearly identical with the present fiscal year, at about $117.4 million for the NEA and almost $126.9 million for NEH. The IMLS, on the other hand, is scheduled for an increase of 8.1 percent over last year’s budget. While advocates urged members of Congress to support a funding increase to $155 million each for both the NEA and the NEH during Arts Advocacy Day and Jefferson Day, it is still unclear whether such increases will occur in the coming fiscal year.
-Marta Teegen, CAA manager of governance, advocacy, and special projects, with Paul Skiff, assistant director of annual conference