Funding for the Arts

A student looks at art during a field trip to Portland Art Museum.

By: Emily Cline

Funding for the arts often finds itself at the center of debate and controversy. Federal and local funding for the arts helps to support art education in schools, public programs, public broadcasting/ media, etc. Many organizations rely on public and private donations as well as funding from taxes to operate.

National Assembly of State Art Agencies (NASAA) reports receiving $368.2 million in funding for fiscal year 2017 which is an 8% increase from fiscal year 2016. However, funding for the arts and humanities is being threatened under the Trump administration. According to Brian Naylor of National Public Radio (NPR), funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as well as funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities is to be either cut significantly or eliminated entirely, the first time a president has proposed such a measure.

According to NASAA, budgets have recovered since the Great Recession and continue to grow, surpassing the previous high from fiscal year 2008. However, they also report that while funding remains on track for a seventh year of growth, it is still below historical averages and budgets may still vary from state to state.

Heather Clawson and Kathleen Coolbaugh found during the YouthARTS Development Project that arts programs had a positive immediate and lasting impact for at risk youth, teaching them skills, art, entrepreneurship, etc.

As Anthony Parton and Douglas and Lynn Newton found in the International Journal of Education through Art, taking students to learn about and engage with art also teaches them about history and culture and can help them learn more about themselves.

Despite the benefits, some states may have to cut spending. According to NASAA, declines in income taxes and falling fossil fuel prices have had a serious impact on local economies. This as well as the cost of health care, pensions, education, and maintenance has led to budget challenges.

People may not know the benefits and would rather pay for something that they see as more important.  According to White House Budget Director, Mick Mulvaney, spending increases for defense and security have come at the expense of other programs. He believes that people shouldn’t be asked to pay for services that they don’t use, but since everyone benefits from defense spending, everyone should pay for it.