Arts Groups Lose Out in Fight for Funds
MARCH 18, 2009, The Wall Street Journal — Museums, theaters and operas, already reeling from the recession, are having a tough time attracting support amid perceptions that vital services like soup kitchens and homeless shelters should receive funds first.
Arts organization are retrenching, and in some cases closing, as a result of fewer sales of tickets and merchandise, arts leaders say. They're also seeing fewer donations from individuals and corporations, and cutbacks in government funding. About 10,000 arts organizations, or 10% of the U.S. total, are at risk of folding, according to Americans for the Arts, a nonprofit lobbying group in Washington, D.C.
The Minnesota Museum of American Art in St. Paul closed indefinitely in January. The museum had existed in various forms since 1927.
One reason for the struggles: Some people "think of arts as an unnecessary frill," and discount arts groups' economic and educational contributions to society, says Lester Salamon, director of the Center for Civil Society Studies at Johns Hopkins University. That sentiment was front and center during recent debate over the giant federal economic-stimulus package, when arts funding met opposition.
Arts groups garner about 40% of their income -- far more than other nonprofits -- from private donations, Mr. Salamon says. But private donors have cut back, and they tend to shift their money to human-services outfits during recessions, he says. "It's a double whammy."
Some cultural institutions have already folded. The Baltimore Opera's board voted to liquidate the organization last week. Brandeis University officials are mired in controversy over a decision to sell parts of its Rose Art Museum collection. In January, the Minnesota Museum of American Art in St. Paul, which had existed in various forms since 1927, closed indefinitely. The Milwaukee Shakespeare theater company shuttered in October, after its main funder, a local foundation, dropped support.
- Americans for the Arts
- Baltimore Opera
- Brandeis University
- Chrysler LLC
- Detroit Opera
- General Motors Corp.
- Imagination Stage
- Indianapolis Museum of Art
- Johns Hopkins University
- Metropolitan Museum Of Art
- Milwaukee Shakespeare
- Minnesota Museum of American Art
- National Endowment for the Arts
- Rose Art Museum
- The Wall Street Journal
- Washington Performing Arts Society