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Arts Action Fund News

  Vol. I 2014 Quarterly Member Newsletter 
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Message from the President
This January, I was honored to receive the Sidney R. Yates Award for Outstanding Advocacy on Behalf of the Performing Arts by the Association of Performing Arts Presenters. Sid Yates was my hero as well as a masterful legislator who represented the greater Chicago area in the U.S. House of Representatives for almost 50 years until 1999. For 20 of those years, he chaired the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior and Related Agencies, which has direct jurisdiction over funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, the Smithsonian, and the National Gallery of Art, among other cultural institutions. At the helm, he would turn dry congressional hearings into performance art through music, poetry, photographs, and drama. He set the initial appropriations to these agencies’ first-ever budgets, he significantly built their funding levels up, and he then protected them during the famous culture wars of the 90s. Periodically, he would call me to say, “Bob, it’s time to rally the troops.” This meant that he needed me to mobilize arts advocates to weigh in with their respective legislators about the importance of public funding of the arts. Things have not changed. It’s still very important today for us to build up our Arts Action Fund network to be able to mobilize 1 million members. As we begin the year in 2014, we see another change in chairmen of the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) will now step up to this leadership role. Our Arts Action Fund PAC recently hosted a re-election fundraiser for him, and we had a chance to ask him for advice on what we can do to help him support federal funding of the arts among his colleagues in Congress. He said, “Get Americans in all parts of the country to talk about how much they value the arts in their communities… it’s just as important in Boise as it is in New York City.”

Arts Victory in Congress
By large margins, Congress has finally passed omnibus legislation in January, bringing a welcomed conclusion to a lengthy and fractious FY 2014 appropriations process-the same process that resulted in a 16-day government shut-down. This negotiated $1 trillion omnibus legislation, now signed into law, increases funding to arts and culture agencies through September 30, 2014. It also provides relief from scheduled cuts under sequestration by putting the automatic cuts on hold for at least two years and thus ending the threat of more severe reductions this year. Compared with sequester-reduced funding levels for FY 2013, the new levels provide a $24 billion increase for non-defense programs and activities. This momentary budget stability, and successful defeat of a proposed 49 percent funding cut to the National Endowment for the Arts, transpired with the help of more than 40,000 Arts Action Fund advocates who sent messages to members of Congress and provided a strong voice for the arts. Highlights of our success include $146 million for both the NEA and the National Endowment for the Humanities, a $7.6 million increase for each. Funding was also restored to $25 million for the Arts In Education program. Work now turns to building on these successes to further increase support for the arts as the FY 2015 budget cycle gets underway.

For detailed legislative updates, please visit

Arts Equal 3.2 Percent of GDP and Generate Big Trade Surplus
According to new research from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the National Endowment for the Arts, the nonprofit and commercial arts combined produce a remarkable $504 billion in goods and services
annually in the United States, representing 3.2 percent of the nation’s economy. This was much larger than expected, and enough to get the attention of U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, who said, “The positive value of arts and culture on society has been understood on a human level for millennia. With this new effort, we are now able to quantify the impact of arts and culture on GDP for the very first time.” This research shows that the arts industry is larger than tourism (2.8 percent of GDP) and that the arts form a strong export industry which has boasted a trade surplus since 2008.

Sea Change in Congress: Retirements Are Stacking Up
Here are some important leadership changes happening that directly impact federal arts and culture funding. In the House, Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) will now lead the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee that determines NEA funding. He will be joined by a new ranking member, (still to be determined), since long-time arts champion Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) will be retiring as well. Champions for arts education Rep. George Miller (D-CA) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) are leaving. Together, they carry away a combined 70 years of institutional knowledge that may cause a course change on key arts education policy reforms. Their replacements are still to be determined as well.

Charitable deductions help keep nonprofit arts and culture organizations financially viable, and it’s important that nonprofits protect this valuable tax legislation. Chair of the Senate Finance Committee Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) departed for China as the next U.S. ambassador, leaving tax reform efforts in the Senate and the fate of the charitable tax deduction to new Chairman Sen. Rob Wyden (D-OR)-a proven, excellent leader on this issue for nonprofits.

Federal Update
We’ve shared top-level congressional committee leadership changes, but we also want to make sure you know about the long list of members of Congress retiring, running for other office, and resigning. With such change comes great opportunity to educate new members of Congress about the arts as we head into the 2014 mid-term elections.

Honoring Arts Leaders in America
Continuing a 20+ year partnership with The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM), Americans for the Arts recently presented four national awards for arts leadership in America. These awards were presented at the USCM Winter Meeting, which is attended by 500 of the nation’s large city mayors. These publically elected officials have shown demonstrated leadership and proven results in advancing and supporting the arts across the country. The honorees listed below reflect the awards presented at the USCM meeting and also during the second half of last year. To learn more about the accomplishments of these elected officials and see a list of previous winners, visit

Oklahoma, Where the Arts Come Sweepin’ down the Plains

The Arts Action Fund traveled to Tulsa, OK to host a PAC fundraiser and a State of the Union watch party at the Hardesty Arts Center in January. The center offers gallery spaces, studios, and a diverse mix of classes. Needless to say, the space was as impressive as our gracious host and Executive Director/CEO of the Arts & Humanities Council of Tulsa Ken Busby. Visitors enjoyed viewing the building as well as the gallery show that encourages viewers to engage in an atmosphere perfect for fostering imagination. The Arts Action Fund is excited to visit other arts communities. If you would like to host or have a local event you would like to invite us to, please send an e-mail to Program Coordinator Samantha Steelman: [email protected]

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