Why Fund the Arts?
The arts are an essential part of our everyday lives, whether we notice it or not.
From the design of the building you walk through to the music you hear in the elevator, someone somewhere had to embrace a feeling of creativity in order to create so many of the sensory elements in our everyday lives. Before that artist could create some actual piece, though, he or she had to be trained to do so, or at least given the tools and opportunity to embrace a natural talent.
All too often, this is stunted by:
- the cutting of visual arts programs in schools
- the cutting of music programs in schools
- the lack of free after school art programs
- the lack of free community music and art programs
- schools emphasizing the importance of academic disciplines over the arts
Children are receiving less of a chance to learn a skill outside of the traditional reading and arithmetic we teach them. Thus, the issue of arts funding is relevant to all of our lives.
How Scarce Is Funding?
According to The City Wire, the annual amount of funding for the Arts, including state, local, and national dollars, is $350 million. This “contributed income” is less than 13% of what supports Arts programs, while closer to 44% of funding for the arts actually comes from the arts itself by way of revenue generation. The National Endowment for the Arts is the independent national organization founded by the U.S. government in 1965, and its purpose is to “support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities” according to its website. To date, it has granted more than $4 billion in that mission.
Consider how minuscule this amount is in comparison to the annual budget of the United States is. For example, in 2013, the approved budget had estimated expenditures of over $38 trillion dollars. Yet, a very insignificant portion of that went to funding the arts or the arts education.
Check out more information about the NEA here.
But Why Should the Government Fund the Arts?
I am in no way suggesting we should radically alter the way we operate as a country by shifting ridiculous amounts of funding towards the arts. Instead, I am suggesting a small but definite increase in arts education funding. I want there to be enough for students to have a music class once a week or have access to art supplies, or most of all have the option of an after school or community art program. Our government is already huge, so I dismiss the argument that allowing the government to get more involved in arts funding is unnecessary or somehow unconstitutional. Our government has a duty to its people to fund programs that better the quality of life, and the arts can do that.
Other countries spend significantly more on arts funding than the United States, as evidenced here by the Canada Council for the Arts.
Explore the entire U.S. budget here.
What are the Benefits?
By giving kids a place to go after school to do something positive, or even by teaching them a creative hobby within school that they can foster on their own, we brighten their futures. The problem exists everywhere in the U.S. Kids don’t always have a healthy environment to grow up in nor a family that will guide them in the right direction, and those values are difficult to regulate. However, we can give them the gift of the arts. By giving kids this chance, we increase the chance that they will stay off the streets and away from drug or gang involvement, especially in inner cities. Everywhere, though, we give kids the chance to see themselves as someone who has a future or a talent, whether they gain that from picking up an instrument or from picking up a paintbrush.
Today the arts are expanding into the realm of technology—and this part I find particularly relevant to today’s society. If we give kids the education about digital media as art, they can transform that into a marketable skill. The possibilities are endless. In conclusion, arts funding is an issue that should take audience with all members of the U.S. public, as it affects our everyday lives and the overall sense of society we have as a nation.