In a swift victory for President Barack Obama, the Democratic-controlled House approved a historically huge $819 billion Economic Stimulus bill last night - filled with new spending and tax cuts at the core of the young adminstration's revival plan for the desperately ailing economy. The vote was 244-188.
I'm writing to urge you to consider signing this petition to increase the proposed $50 million funding to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in the $825 billion Economic Stimulus Plan, being voted on by the Senate next week.
The NEA has been underfunded since the Newt Gingrich budget assault following the 1994 Congressional elections, and fifteen years later has surpassed critical point. The NEA's current budget is around $144 million or, just 50 cents for each American. If the NEA budget were doubled, half of all additional funding over $175 million will go directly to Arts Education. President Obama has also announced his intention to beef up arts education in the Dept. of Education, and I hope you will support his efforts.
We are grateful that this small percentage of the $819 Billion Economic Stimulus Plan has been earmarked for the Arts - primarily through the administration of the NEA and the NEH. However, as Arts and economic development go hand-in-hand, and considering the Arts brings more money to cities than does professional sports, the argument that this money is really "pork" and doesn't stimulate the economy, is plain false. In fact, it has been pointed out by the NEA that the very small amount of money, when compared to the overall $819 billion, is actually placed more efficiently into the economy and will establish over 6,000 jobs. While the arts organizations financed by NEA grants may have only 2, 10, or 25 employees, there are hundreds of organizations and they add up to the same kind of impact as a large corporations such as airlines or banks.
Roosevelt carved a niche for artists in his New Deal. These programs not only created jobs, put money into the economy, and improved education / lives in general, they also placed the USA in a cultural leadership position in the world which exists today. Indeed, the Federal Art Project - along with several other WPA-backed programs, created well over 5,000 jobs for American artists. These artists created over 2,500 murals, over 17,700 sculptures, 108,000 paintings, and 240,000 prints. The project's legacy lives on, supporting artists like Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky, and many other abstract expressionists whose work helped shift the most dynamic center of the art world from its traditional location in Europe, to where it now resides - in the largest American cities.
The FSA photography project was also most responsible for creating the image of the Depression in the U.S. Many of the images appeared in popular magazines. The photographers were under instruction from Washington as to what overall impression the New Deal wanted to give. Director Roy Stryker's agenda focused on his faith in social engineering, the poor conditions among cotton tenant farmers, and the very poor conditions among migrant farm workers. Above all, he was committed to social reform through New Deal intervention in people's lives. New Deal era films such as Citizen Kane ridiculed so-called "great men", while class warfare appeared in numerous movies, such as Meet John Doe and The Grapes of Wrath.
Established on July 27, 1935, the Federal Writers' Project (FWP) additionally created over 6,600 jobs for writers, editors, researchers, and many others who exemplified a given level of literary expertise. Compiling local histories, oral histories, ethnographies, children's books and other works, these writers created over 1,200 books and pamphlets. They also produced some of the first U.S. guides for states, major cities, and roadways. Responsible for recording folklore and oral histories, the FWP most notably wrote the 2,300 plus first-person accounts of slavery now existing as an invaluable collection in the Library of Congress. As with the Federal Art Project, the FWP's contributions to American literature were both significant and long-lasting, giving authors like John Steinbeck, Zora Neale Hurston, Sterling Brown, and many others the opportunity to continue their work in a time of difficult economic circumstances.
Not everyone is an athlete, an accountant, a scholar, a scientist, a finance expert, a teacher, or a politician, but most artists must embody all these characteristics to survive in a culture not valuing them. All great nations not only revered the Arts, but made certain artisans held court in the very highest echelons of society. Giving the arts the respectable place in our current society it deserves will better our future as a strong nation, and send a message not only to our fellow countrymen, but also to the rest of the world that real change is underway in America.
By signing this petition, you're telling your representative to support the arts by increasing the $50 million earmarked for the NEA. Your action will be the first critical step toward addressing the unmet need for all struggling artists. Passing this on to every contact you have would be most appreciated! Time is of the utmost importance. To find your representative, check here.
Thanks for all you do!