Lin-Manuel Miranda, American actor,playwright and composer, showcased his first musical at the O’Neill MusicalTheatre Center, partly financed by government funds. He would go on to Broadwaywith his musical and cultural phenomenon, Hamilton. However, his success wouldnot have been possible without federal art funds that he attributed to everyformative stage of his career. Federal arts funding by the National Endowmentfor the Arts (NEA), an independent federal agency offering funding for the arts,offers citizens access to the arts, an important aspect of the enrichment ofeducation for children, the economy, local communities, small arts groups andindividuals. Federal funding the arts is necessary and beneficial to all U.S.citizens.
Federal funding for the arts isimportant for children, enriching their education and lives. The NEA has moregoals than providing access to and promoting the arts. Robert Lynch, presidentof the Americans for the Arts, an assembly of local arts agencies, states thatthe NEA is promoting the use of arts to mend and address social problems – youngpeople at risk of crime and drugs (Clark 920). For example, arts programs canbe utilized for rehabilitation for troubled youth such as the recently enactedfederal crime bill and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (Clark 914).
RonaldDworkin, American philosopher and jurist, insists that it is important forpeople to live within a diverse cultural infrastructure and that we should giveto our later generations what we inherited from our previous generations: amultifarious framework (Carroll 33). Furthermore, it is the young, poor andminorities that benefit greatly from the programs supported by the NEA becauserate of arts participation is countercyclical: in periods of recession andgreat unemployment, participation and attendance in the arts rises, and viceversa. (Greenblatt 597).TheNEA stimulates the arts which significantly fuels the U.S. economy.
Accordingto Americans for the Arts, a nonprofit arts organization, nonprofit artsprograms annually generate in tax revenue a return of $27.5 billion and $166.3billion in economic activity every year, providing 4.6 million jobs (Greenblatt583-84). In 2014, according to the U.S.
Bureau of Economic Analysis, arts andcultural production contributed 4.2 percent of the GDP, or $729.6 billion worthof economic activity (Greenblatt 589). Needless to say, the arts mean business.Furthermore, funding for the arts in local communities contribute to economicdevelopment, including reviving urban centers that have been on the decline (Harsell76). And ultimately, the federal and state governments have the responsibilityof providing people the right of the pursuit of happiness, which includesproviding the opportunity for people to pursue the line of work they mostdesire (Carroll 30). Federalfunding contributes to the thriving of cities and small communities. The NEAhelps promote access to the arts in local communities such as performing artsshows, theater shows and museums, by providing grants to state arts agenciesand organizations (Greenblatt 584).
While the NEA does not contribute a hugeportion to the overall funding of the arts, the support of funding from the NEAcan establish legitimacy and thus support for a project or organization in regionalcommunities, from other sponsors. According to the NEA, every one dollar thatis granted by the NEA will produce eight or nine dollars of grants, donationsor earnings (Harsell 77). The NEA cannot subsidize individual artists. Itprovides grants to every congressional district in the United States, a quarterof the grants going to rural areas.
Furthermore, the NEA has been particularlyalert about its beneficiaries being mostly big cities on the coast such as LosAngeles and New York (Greenblatt 597). Federal arts funding also allow thefunds to be used for enriching the culture and economic development of citiesand specific neighborhoods (Greenblatt 585).TheNEA supports small arts groups and organizations that would otherwise havelittle support. Garrison Keillor attributes the NEA in its crucial help tojumpstart A Prairie Home Companion, apopular live weekly variety show in Minnesota (Harsell 77). Government supportfor the arts is critical because it attracts other donors to programs andorganizations that would otherwise go on the decline. The NEA works withregional arts agencies so that the programs that would enrich the community,would thrive (Greenblatt 585). Federal arts funding also impact those who don’tdirectly have access to participate or attend the arts. They can enjoy the artsthrough radio or T.
V. programs such as the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).Lin-Manuel Miranda specfically attributes watching PBS’ Great Performances to changing his life to the career choice in theperforming arts (Greenblatt 586). However the NEA may provide support for smallcommunities, it is up to the state governments to promote the arts in theirstate. The states that already do support the arts industry and other “socialinvestment” programs in their state simply receive greater stimulus (Hofferbertand Urice 327). Ensuringpublic funding for the arts will ensure that the benefits of the arts isprovided forallcitizens. Not only is there evidence to back up the significance of the artsand federal arts funding, but people are also aware of its importance.
According to a 1993 poll commissioned by the National Cultural Alliance (NAC),a large majority of the 81 percent of Americans agree that the arts andhumanities help provide greater economic prosperity in society also agree thatthe arts enrich their local community (Clark 915). Edward H. Able, president ofthe American Association of Museums (AAM), regards the NEA as the “criticalthird leg of a stool” of what the government should provide for its citizens,along with science and the humanities (Clark 918).
The benefits of federal artsfunding are not exclusive to residents in the U.S. People from foreigncountries participate in the enjoyment from and access to the arts fromAmerica, and vice versa. American ballet students receive scholarships fromprestigious French ballet schools, furthering the refinement of their educationin their vocation, and that goes the same for opportunities in America providedfor foreigners (Howard 95). Through its demonstrated efforts, the NEA continuesto uphold its original intent in creating the federal agency in 1965 of being alegitimate function of the public sector, providing for its citizens what theydeserve (Harsell 96).