Cutting federal arts funding won’t have any effect on the deficit. On local communities? A different story.

Rich Homberg

Rich Homberg is chairman of the board of CultureSource, the alliance for nonprofit arts and culture organizations in Southeast Michigan.

What do the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, InsideOut Literary Arts Project, University Music Society and Mosaic Youth Theater all have in common?

They all receive critical support from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Funding from the NEA contributes to arts and cultural organizations that create collaborative communities, connecting the cities to the suburbs and spurring economic investment along the way. Educational partnerships from Detroit to Ann Arbor, the reinstallation of the Asian wing at the Detroit Institute of Arts -- free for residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties -- as well as the upcoming DLECTRICITY festival throughout Midtown Detroit, are just a few examples of work that is supported thanks to the NEA.

President Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget eliminates important arts education and after-school grant programs, despite the fact that NEA funding represents a fractional percentage of the total federal budget. 

Communities across America have a stake in the arts, including our own in Metro Detroit. According to Americans for the Arts, 4.8 million Americans work in arts and culture industries. Additionally, the arts generate $22.3 billion in federal, state, and local government revenue. In Southeast Michigan alone, over $125 million in paid salaries contribute to nearly 12,500 jobs annually.  

As the alliance for nonprofit arts and culture organizations throughout Southeast Michigan, CultureSource want to emphasize to Senators Stabenow and Peters, and all of our elected officials, that grants funded from the NEA work to enhance access to the arts for all, especially in underserved rural and inner-city areas. Winning an NEA grant sends a clear message that the grantee is operating an impactful local program of top quality, nationally. 

In the entire state of Michigan in 2016, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs received $770,000 from the NEA – of that, 95 arts and culture nonprofits in Southeast Michigan received nearly $300,000 in operating support through the MCACA. Organizations in our region, from Wixom to Rochester, received an additional $720,000 directly from the NEA to support their operations, ranging from Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings, the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, Focus: Hope and Sphinx.  

The NEA recommends grants in every Congressional district in the country. What’s more, 40 percent of NEA-supported activities take place in high-poverty neighborhoods, like the University of Michigan's investment in a creative incubator in Detroit’s Brightmoor neighborhood with their Maker Space. Thirty-six percent of NEA grants go to organizations that reach underserved populations including people with disabilities and veterans. The NEA has been able to do all these things and more with just 0.004 percent of the total federal budget.

According to the latest news from U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, the arts and culture sector contribute 4.23 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. That’s $729 billion per year. It’s one of the very few economic industries that yield a trade surplus of $26 billion and generates 4.8 million American jobs that cannot be outsourced out of the country. 

As we work to build a stronger and more inclusive Metro Detroit, we must not forget the impact created by these arts and cultural institutions in our own cities. Please don’t believe that eliminating these cultural agencies will reduce the deficit or the size of government. We simply cannot afford to cut back on our federal investment in the arts and culture in this country.

Now, more than ever, we cannot afford to lose the profound impact of the NEA in our state, community, and schools.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan.

About The Author

Rich Homberg

A guest author for Bridge Magazine.

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Comments

Kevin Grand
Fri, 06/16/2017 - 5:07pm

"As the alliance for nonprofit arts and culture organizations throughout Southeast Michigan, CultureSource want to emphasize to Senators Stabenow and Peters, and all of our elected officials, that grants funded from the NEA work to enhance access to the arts for all, especially in underserved rural and inner-city areas. "

If Mr. Homber wants to lobby on behalf of the NEA, let me add this to the discussion: Where does the federal government derive the authority to spend ANY public money on "the arts".

Good luck finding it, because it isn't there.

And if the authority doesn't exist, than how can any elected official legitimately claim they have the authority to appropriate public funds in that manner?

Adding to this dilemma, I specifically used that term in quotes because one person's definition of "the arts" doesn't necessarily coincide with the person standing next to them.

Remember the "artist" who though that placing a crucifix in a bucket of urine was considered "art"? That was paid for by the NEA.

What about the Phoenix Art Museum's exhibit on the American Flag? Some "artists" thought that draping our flag over a toilet or having people comment on "How to best display our flag", by having people actually stand on our flag to write down their comments, is somehow "art". That also was paid for by the NEA.

The NEA even paid for photographic and video exhibitions that I highly doubt The Bridge Staff will even allow me to accurately describe here due to their content being extremely NSFW.

So, Mr. Homberg, how do you possibly justify compelling someone to pay for something that they fundamentally find abhorrent and objectionable?

And unlike the recently enacted DIA tax, where DIA attendance is currently falling and residents DIDN'T receive free unlimited admission that we were promised (but somehow managed to pay its board 5 and 6-digit bonuses along with a secret home loan to its former director), the question deserves to be asked whether or not these people promoting this tax were more interested in promoting & enriching the arts or themselves?

http://www.macombdaily.com/article/MD/20170422/NEWS/170429836

http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20150826/BLOG009/150829897/why-did-...

https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2015/08/26/some-detroit-institute-of-art-...

When you need to make people give you money, what does that really tell you about the level of support something actually has?

Rich
Sat, 06/17/2017 - 4:48pm

The DIA is not free to residents of Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties. Each property owner pays a millage each year for their "free" entrance. Thank you, but I prefer to determine how I spend my money. Giving 6 figure bonuses and interest free loans to directors is not among how I choose to spend my money. As a previous respondent said, no where in our constitution does it say that government is to support the arts. Keep up the good work President Trump, and drop by drop continue to drain the swamp.

Matt
Sun, 06/18/2017 - 10:31am

Interestingly the rest of the state though still gets to pay admission in-spite of the massive "contribution" we "gave" Detroit. But never mind because <1% ever bother going!

John Saari
Sun, 06/18/2017 - 6:53am

Right after we keep him/her alive with enough food, healthcare and housing, then we can educate him/her, then we could pay for some sports and art.

Matt
Sun, 06/18/2017 - 10:40am

In typical fashion the author pushes the canard that every other of the millions of special interest groups and beneficiaries push, that cutting "our expenditure won't solve the problem". Laws of finance and economics like physics can only appear to be broken until they can't.

Michigan Observer
Sun, 06/18/2017 - 2:34pm

"As the alliance for nonprofit arts and culture organizations throughout Southeast Michigan, CultureSource want to emphasize to Senators Stabenow and Peters, and all of our elected officials, that grants funded from the NEA work to enhance access to the arts for all, especially in underserved rural and inner-city areas. Winning an NEA grant sends a clear message that the grantee is operating an impactful local program of top quality,
nationally. "

Mr. Homberg has not established that funding for the NEA contributes more to the general welfare than any other function of the federal government. Is he absolutely positive that medical research wouldn't be a better investment than the NEA? For that matter, can he demonstrate that it wouldn't be more productive to let citizens determine for themselves the best use of the money? After all, we established government to purchase public goods, and art is not a public good. And he makes the extraordinary assertion "Please don’t believe that eliminating these cultural agencies will reduce the deficit or the size of government." Does he mean to say that subtracting the NEA's budget from the federal budget would not reduce that budget? Amazing.

Matt
Mon, 06/19/2017 - 7:39am

Like most government programs/expenditures, NEA is based on principle of diffused costs and concentrated benefits!

LuAnn
Mon, 06/19/2017 - 2:45pm

I do not support federal money for the arts. When I see what many liberals consider artistic it makes me want to throw up. Everything you mentioned was in Detroit so let Detroit fund it themselves through their taxes.