Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bloated Beast

I just hate the accounting that arts orgs do. It makes them sound like idiots. Americans for the Arts has belted out a feast of arts proposals with the kind of bombast that only convinces weak-minded aristocrats of the need for more arts funding. Artists don't believe y'all because they never see this money. This is art bureaucracy funding, and besides #7 (which was Obama's idea anyway) and #9 (which is a pie-in-the-sky chain letter as far as I'm concerned) this whole thing has nothing to do with creating more and/or better art.

Ugly quote from the intro: Nonprofit arts organizations and their audiences generate $166.2 billion in economic activity every year, support 5.7 million jobs, and return nearly $30 billion in government revenue every year—proving that the arts are an economic driver in their communities that support jobs and generate government revenue. Every $1 billion in spending by nonprofit arts and culture organizations – and their audiences – results in almost 70,000 full-time-equivalent jobs.

Lets boil those numbers, shall we?

If Non-profits support 5.7 million jobs and every $l,000,000,000 results in 70,000 "jobs", then the industry spends over $81 billion on payroll every year.

Roughly half of the economic activity of the industry each year, this means that it takes $14,285 to maintain a "full-time-equivalent job" in the non-profit arts industry. Pretty cheap for full-time; the numbers don't seem to add up.

Plus, $166.2 billion in economic activity per year is less than 1% of 2007 US GDP (13.84 trillion).

The 2008 US Labor Force of 154.4 million dwarfs the 5.7 million jobs that arts non-profits support. That means .3% of US Jobs are non-profit arts jobs, and the median pay is $14,000.

What do you think?

Shouldn't we be doing better things than reinforcing the cholesterol in the artworld's arteries?

(1) Include Artists in Proposal for Unemployment & Healthcare Benefits for Part-Time

The creative economy relies heavily on professionals that make a living from non-traditional
employment structures. Artists are disproportionately self-employed, and many work multiple jobs in volatile, episodic patterns; the ability to have access to unemployment insurance and healthcare benefits would offer critical assistance to this population.

(2) Boost Arts Projects in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)

Provided by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) to mayors’ community development offices, the CDBG program provides “bricks & mortar” funding for a variety of state and municipal projects. We join with the U.S. Conference of Mayors in their call for $20 billion in CDBG funding and seek at least $2 billion in arts-specific projects.

(3) Provide Economic Recovery Support to Federal Cultural Agencies

Americans for the Arts calls for increasing FY 2010 annual support to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to $200 million, a similar amount for the National Endowment for the Humanities, and IMLS to $269 million. All three agencies should receive economic recovery emergency funding to increase current grantee projects.

In terms of the economic recovery proposal, the NEA should be allocated at least $1 billion to be administered to designated local arts agencies. Grants of this kind would be for the purposes of producing cultural and artistic programming and public art initiatives in 2009. These grants awarded to LAAs would a) speedily disburse local funding to all the arts disciplines; b) employ artists and the cultural workforce and c) serve to increase access to the arts in order to leverage spending by audiences.

(4) Include Cultural Planning Through Economic Development Administration (EDA)

These programs should meet the increasing need for local cultural district planning and assisting municipalities with developing the creative economy in their communities.

(5) Increase Cultural Facilities Support in Rural Development Program (USDA)

The Housing and Community Facilities program funds the construction, rehabilitation, or acquisition of “essential facilities” which includes cultural facilities. About nine percent of the Community Facilities funding has been directed to education and cultural facilities—an amount that should be increased.

(6) Link Transportation Enhancements (TE Program) With State Arts Agencies

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Transportation Enhancement program should receive an increase in funding and all projects should be developed and implemented in coordination with the state arts agency.

(7) Create the Artist Corps

President-Elect Obama’s proposal of an “Artists Corps of young artists trained to work in low income schools and their communities” should be acted upon quickly to establish the Artists Corps as a national training initiative.

(8) Make Human Capital Investments in Arts Job Training

We support that effort with an interest in expanding the services available to workers in the creative sector and through arts institutions that can provide professional development training.

(9) Appoint a Senior-Level Administration Official with Arts Portfolio

The president should name a senior-level administration official in the Executive Office of the
President to coordinate arts and cultural policy