CAA News Today

CAA cosponsored Humanities Advocacy Day (February 25, 2003), hosted by the National Humanities Alliance, and Arts Advocacy Day (March 26, 2003), hosted by Americans for the Arts, 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.

CAA representatives Susan Ball, Richard Selden, and Marta Teegen visited the offices of several key members of the Senate and House Interior Appropriations Subcommittees, which deal directly with funding for the federal cultural agencies, and met with other legislators during both advocacy events.

For Humanities Advocacy Day, an event that focuses on increased support for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Ball and Teegen called for Congress to support President George W. Bush’s budget request of $152 million for the NEH, a $26 million increase over the current fiscal year. Much of the proposed increase will go to fund the NEH’s We the People initiative to advance understanding of American history, culture, and civics. It is very important to note the program is currently administered within, but not officially funded by, the NEH. Should We the People be properly funded, it will become its own program at the NEH-grant applications dealing with American history, culture, and civics will go to this new program instead of the various other program divisions at NEH, as is currently the case. Consequently, a properly funded We the People will free up money for other NEH programs, including Preservation & Access and Research Grants.

At Arts Advocacy Day, CAA representatives Ball and Selden focused on several important arts policy matters during visits to Capitol Hill. They urged Congress to appropriate $170 million in funds for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), $53 million above the current fiscal year. The NEA has never recovered from the 40 percent budget cut it received in 1996, and its programs are woefully underfunded. Moreover, CAA’s representatives called on Congress to support President Bush’s budget request of $34.43 million for the Office of Museum Services, a division within the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Ball joined members of the New York delegation to Arts Advocacy Day on visits to the offices of Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Amo Houghton (R-NY), both of whom serve on the House Ways and Means Committee (Rangel is the ranking member), which has jurisdiction over all tax policies, including proposed legislation calling for fair-market-value tax deductions for artists. Identical bills have been introduced in the House and Senate again this year to allow artists to deduct contributions of their artworks at full market value. Representatives Houghton and Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced H.R. 806 Artists’ Contribution to American Heritage Act of 2003, and Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Robert Bennett (R-UT) introduced S. 287 Artist-Museum Partnership Act. Both bills continue to have strong bipartisan support, though it is still unclear when in the coming year either of them will be voted on.

Other issues raised on Arts Advocacy Day concerned improving the visa process for visiting international artists and scholars. Many nonprofit organizations confront untenable delays and uncertainties while getting approval of visa petitions for international guest artists and scholars. While current law requires a maximum fourteen-day process, it now takes the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) up to 120 days to process visa petitions in the categories most used by visiting artists. Delays began in June 2001, when the INS adopted a Premium Processing Service, which guarantees processing within fifteen days upon payment of an additional $1,000; however, most nonprofit organizations cannot afford such a fee. Arts advocates called on Congress to urge the INS to adopt immediate reforms that will ensure timely processing of visa petitions related to nonprofit arts groups.

CAA’s representatives also advocated for an increase in appropriations for cultural exchanges through the U.S. Department of State. They specifically urged Congress to boost funding by $10 million for the Cultural Programs Division, which currently receives only $2 million. This division funds international educational exchange and training programs and supports partnerships among museums around the world.

-Marta Teegen, CAA director of governance and advocacy