[An] assortment of academics, federal bureaucrats, and staffers from private think tanks and research organizations will assemble in Washington, and in cyberspace at www.nea.gov. They’ll attempt to elucidate, ponder and talk about how to broaden and improve the statistical evidence supporting the notion that what composers, writers, painters, et al do is not just fluff and filigree, but part of the dollars-and-cents fiber of the country.
Arts organizations have long tried to play the “it’s good for business” card whenever they’re faced with funding cuts or fundraising for a major new project. In fact, the new NEA chair, Rocco Landesman, has given the endowment a new slogan: “Art Works.”
But there’s also a very specific reason artists and arts institutions might want to check in on some of the panels about economic impact:
Nine months ago, by a vote of 73-24, the U.S. Senate specifically placed museums, theaters and art centers on a blacklist of “wasteful and non-stimulative” enterprises excluded from funding under the national emergency economic stimulus bill then being debated. Ultimately, that amendment got amended, and the NEA received $50 million . . . But it spoke volumes about the political clout of the arts that so many senators with no grudge against arts funding felt free to throw museums and theaters under the proverbial bus in casting that preliminary vote.
Would so many have dared sign on to language excluding, say, the hiring of gym teachers or the construction of high school sports facilities?