Congress should reject cuts to arts program

The U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee has approved a bill that would cut the National Endowment for the Arts by 49 percent. I think this is a terrible idea and call on our congressional delegation to reject this cut. It is time to stop thinking that cutting arts funding is a viable stop-gap, budget fix.

According to Americans for the Arts, the nonprofit arts industry (museums, theater and dance companies, performing arts centers, orchestras, arts councils and others) generates $22.3 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenues annually-a yield well beyond their collective $4 billion in arts allocations. In Athens County alone the arts industry supported over 700 full time equivalent jobs and generated $1,108,000.00 for local government. (According to the Americans for the Arts Economic Impact Study IV)

Because the National Endowment for the Arts supports artistic excellence and improves access to the arts by granting funds to nonprofit arts organizations I call on our federal officials to support an increase in funding for the NEA beyond its 1993 funding level of $174 million. That funding figure equals $277 million in today’s dollars.

Rural communities like ours contain some of the greatest cultural assets of our country. Cultural assets that include Stuart’s Opera House, Factory Street Dance Studio, The Dairy Barn, ARTS/West plus 40 more! Rural economic development should be strengthened to help these communities promote the richness of their heritage and assist local artists with their entrepreneurship.

Across the country, the role of the arts as an economic engine is growing in acceptance and strength. Athens County has recently formed the Athens Area Citizens for the Arts, a project of the Ohio Citizens for the Arts Foundation, to promote the arts and contribute to the economic development of our county. We are rich in the arts. We cannot continue to do more with less. Our county will feel the negative effects of art funding cuts.

I call on all lawmakers to support funding and policies at the federal level that would recognize the growth potential and direct benefits of encouraging cities and states to strategically invest in the arts in order to drive economic development.

Emily Prince