Arts Groups Lose Out in Fight for Funds
Many arts organizations are tightening their belts. In New York, where Wall Street banks have collapsed, the Metropolitan Museum of Art just cut 74 positions and warned it could slash another 10% of its work force by July. In Detroit, where General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC are on the verge of bankruptcy, the Detroit Institute of Arts reduced 20% of its staff as part of a $6 million budget cut, and the Detroit Opera canceled a spring production.
In suburban Maryland, Imagination Stage, one of the U.S.'s largest children's theaters, expects its $5.1 million budget for fiscal 2009 to shrink 5%, said Brett Crawford, the theater's managing director. Amid state budget cuts and fewer corporate and individual donations, the theater has started furloughs and cut some productions at its camps.
"It's tough out there," Ms. Crawford says. "The arts are...that thing that can be cut, because we need our police officers, we need our soup kitchens."
Arts organizations have responded by trumpeting their education initiatives as examples of how they give back to society and warrant additional money. The Washington Performing Arts Society sponsors a gospel choir for inner-city youth that recently performed for President Barack Obama at the national prayer service the day after his inauguration. The Indianapolis Museum of Art supports art instruction for third graders in city public schools, then invites classes to tour the museum.
In their bid to rally support, arts leaders have focused most on economic arguments. Cultural institutions generate $166.2 billion in annual economic activity through spending by organizations and consumers patronizing their events, says Americans for the Arts. The sector accounts for 5.7 million jobs and nearly $30 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue.
That argument encountered an uphill battle during congressional debate over the stimulus package. When the Senate passed its version of the stimulus, it contained a provision barring any money from going to museums, theaters and arts centers -- grouping those organizations with casinos and golf courses. It also stripped funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.
- 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