Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

The National Endowment for the Arts IS Stimulative

I just heard Representative David Dreier, Republican of California and Ranking Member of the House Rules Committee, say that the $50 Million in the Stimulus Bill allotted to the National Endowment for the Arts was “not stimulative.”

I have to take issue here, and, as an example, I will point to my little village of Shepherdstown, West Virginia (at the last census with a population of 800). We’re about an hour and a half from Washington DC or an hour from Baltimore, and our local Shepherd University is the home of a wonderful arts event, The Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF) which will enter its nineteenth season this year.

In 2006, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded CATF with a $17,000 grant “to support the creation, development, and production of Jazzland, by Keith Glover. The play tells the story of a gifted musician involved in an accident who strives to regain his skills and memory. The development phase will include staged readings, workshops, and panel discussions with local scholars, journalists, and artists.”

So what did this mean for our local economy?

First, the grant had to be matched, so the Director, Board and staff of the CATF had to go out and bring back at least another $17,000 to be spent with the NEA grant. Most of that came from outside our town. That means the original NEA donation was now doubled to $34,000.

Then there was the way the money was used. It paid for a portion of the costs of the 2006 Festival… that means salaries for actors, technicians, designers, administrators, box office personnel. It meant paid advertising in local papers and on local radio (which was spent again in the community by those institutions.) It meant hotel rooms rented during rehearsals and production for playwright, actors who had come in from New York, Baltimore, DC and other cities.

The production attracts program advertising for the local, tourist oriented stores and restaurants on our 2-block downtown area: German Street. Because of those ads, cast, crews, administrators, audiences, visiting press and others spend even more money here in Shepherdstown… money that would not be spent here if CATF were not funded.

Because of CATF, students are drawn to Shepherd University, which houses the Festival and whose staff provides faculty support in the academic season. This brings even more money in the form of tuitions, book expenditures and related items into the town… money that woud not be there if the CATF were not funded.

So you see, the NEA makes a very stimulative difference here.

It has been shown by wiser economists than me that the average return of funds put into a program by the NEA is approximately 8 to 1. Which means that original $17,000 grant in 2006 really equaled $136,000.00. WOW! I get stimulated just thinking about it.

So when Representative Dreier says that $50 Million for the NEA, whose function is to give out grants for operations of arts organizations and artists all over the country, is “not stimulative,” then I’m probably listening to a guy who never looked at the hard reality of the benefit of the arts.

I am glad, then, that there are enough Democrats in the House to approve the compromise bill. And I hope Representative Dreier can realize his error in the near future.

Under The LobsterScope


  1. …and am glad you posted it here. Though it of course suits the tastes and attitudes of people who blog, the reality is that small amounts of arts funding can actually pump prime all kinds of other economic activity.

    It’s no secret here that the building of galleries or theatres such as the Tate Modern on the then moribund parts of the the South Bank, helped to rejuvenate a whole area of London. Live arts are one of the key drivers of population growth and revitalisation of urban districts, from the Pompidou Centre in the Beaubourg of Paris to the Guggenheim in Bilbao. Why?

    Because software engineers, investment bankers, doctors, realtors, teachers etc. all want something to do with their free time. A cool museum or theatre or music festival brings with it great places to go with the kids, good food, nice bars. A brilliant article in The Atlantic this month explains that the metropolitan centres with these kind of attractions will actually fare better in the current recession/depression:

    The places that thrive today are those with the highest velocity of ideas, the highest density of talented and creative people… The economy is driven by key urban areas; a different geography is required.


  2. RepubliCAN’Ts believe that The Arts are performed by the very poor and uneducated masses, under the direction and approval of the moral authorities for the enjoyment of the very special people that are entrusted the burden of watching over us all.


    You’ll dance when I say you can dance, boy!  Now…DANCE!


  3. Jjc2008

    But sadly quite a few, even on the left I suspect, look their noses down on the arts.  

    It is the same with the arts in public schools.  They are always are the first things cut, particularly since NCLB and the nonsensical “test scores by zip codes”.   Poor schools lose the arts and that’s that.  Public schools in rich neighborhoods lose them too but their fundraisers and parent community will get them back in with all kinds of ways.  

    It does not matter that the research has shown for years and years that participation in the arts actually improves achievement.  Take it away from the those who probably benefit those most from arts funding.


  4. psychodrew

    They hate art.

    This isn’t about stimulus.  The GOP is smart.  They know that NEA grants are stimulative.  This is about ideology.  They hate culture.  They would rather buy bombs.

    BTW, I grew up in the Northern Panhandle.  It’s nice to meet another Mountaineer here at the Moose.

  5. sricki

    Anyone asserting that supporting the Arts is of no benefit to the economy is narrow minded and uninspired. So. Yeah. No surprise that the GOP just doesn’t get it.

  6. DeniseVelez

    reviewing grant applications, and sat on similar panels for NEH (Humanities) as well as panels for local city arts and humanities.

    These grants provide funding and infusions of cash for not only major institutions, but for local community organizations and individuals, including community/public radio, & tv, and indie film.

    Arts organizations not only sustain artists and educate, they also pay rent for their buildings, and employ administrative staff, maintenance workers, they buy supplies; the impact  of not funding the Arts has a ripple effect.

    I think this country needs a Ministry of Culture – or the Arts, meaning a cabinet level position. We are one of the few major (or minor for that matter) countries in the world without one.

  7. muttsy

    That’s my one word answer for what stimulating people’s artistic and creative drive can lead to economically – a major industry.  How do people feel about government funding of science and technology?  I feel that given the computer I am writing on and the internet itself was born out of government funded programs – the government’s role in the advancement of science and technology, as well as infrastructure – is essential.  Currently reading Thinking Big and came across this fact: “Today, infrastructure spending as a percentage of GDP has decreased nearly 50 percent since its peak. Education spending as a percentage of GDP has remained stagnant since 1969, while research and development funding has declined by half in the same time period.”  I think that government funding of science and technology should include education – and all with the aim to solve the problems of climate that we face.

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