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Call to Action: Congress to Address Arts Funding in November

The final FY23 Interior Appropriations budget, which specifically includes annual funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), will be negotiated in conference soon by members of both the United States Senate and the House of Representatives. The current House version of the bill sets the allocation at an all-time high funding level of $207 million each for the NEA and NEH.  However, the Senate Appropriations Committee draft set its allocation at only $195 million each for NEA and NEH. Americans for the Arts and the Arts Action Fund have set up an easy way for you to quickly send two important messages in one step to both your Senators and your House Representative with these messages: Urge your Senators to accept the higher House-set funding level of $207 million each for the NEA and NEH for FY 2023. Urge your House Representative to stand strong on the $207 million allocation voted on by the House of Representatives earlier this year to fund the NEA and NEH FY 23 budgets. Contact your member of Congress today and make your voice heard about how vital the arts are to your state and our country!  
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NY Times Article on Joe Biden’s Support of the Arts


Joe Biden and the Arts: No R.B.G. but a Loyal Promoter of Culture

The former vice president has been an intermittent consumer of the arts, but cultural leaders credit him as a key source of government financial support. 

By Graham Bowley

Oct. 30, 2020, 11:21 a.m. ET

Joseph R. Biden Jr. is no aesthete. Not many presidential nominees have been, though some, after a stint in the White House, have decided to take up painting — with varying degrees of success.

But if Mr. Biden’s tastes run to 1967 Corvettes, Grisham novels and “Crocodile Rock,” he is, nonetheless, someone arts leaders say has always embraced the practical usefulness of the arts as an economic engine, political action trigger and community builder.

Mr. Biden’s attitude is “less from a consumer point of view and more about the inspirational value and transformational value of the arts,” said Robert L. Lynch, president and chief executive of Americans for the Arts, a national arts advocacy organization, who has tracked Mr. Biden’s support for the arts for decades. “It’s not, ‘Look, I loved this piece, or this song.’ It’s more about the bigger role of the arts in society.”

America already has a good idea of President Trump’s approach to the arts, which largely regards the world of culture as the habitat of effete liberalism and relies instead on promoting his support from celebrity performers like Ted Nugent, Lil Wayne or Kid Rock.

Mr. Trump’s signature cultural policy directive has been an effort to strip all funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, two grant-giving agencies that have, nonetheless, survived despite conservative views that their missions are outside the core responsibilities of government.

But Mr. Biden’s perspectives on the arts, and what sort of impact his presidency might have on cultural organizations, has received little attention, particularly in a rancorous campaign dominated by the pandemic, health care and other contention issues.

The leaders of cultural organizations say that as a Democratic Senator from Delaware, and then as vice president, Mr. Biden was a consistent advocate for government funding for the arts. Last month, he won the endorsement of the Actors’ Equity Association, the union for actors and stage managers, only the second time in its history it has made a presidential endorsement. (It backed Hillary Clinton in 2016.)

“Vice President Biden understands that the arts are a critical driver of healthy and strong local economies in cities and towns across the country,” said Kate Shindle, president of Actors’ Equity, in a statement.

Jane Alexander, the actress who was chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts from 1993 to 1997, recalled walking with Mr. Biden from Union Station to Capitol Hill shortly after the Republicans had taken both houses of Congress in the 1994 elections and some were assailing the organization she ran. He was not making fiery speeches, but she said she knew she could count on his support.

“He said, ‘You have a very tough job,’” Ms. Alexander said. “I remember him being very sympathetic with the work that I had to do, and he had been supportive of the N.E.A. all along.”

So even though he never made culture a focus of his legislative legacy, like Edward M. Kennedy, who was one of the founders of the Senate’s arts caucus, Mr. Biden has received high marks for his voting record from arts executives. As a senator, Mr. Biden co-sponsored the bill creating the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, supported initiatives for cultural diplomacy, and in 2001, was one of the original co-sponsors of legislation establishing the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. He attended the opening as vice president in 2016.

“Everything we hoped for, he voted for,” said Mr. Lynch of Americans for the Arts.
In comparison to a public figure like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose attendance at the opera was routine, Mr. Biden’s profile as an arts aficionado is modest, his regular trips with his family to see Broadway shows notwithstanding. As vice president for eight years, he attended at least seven events at the Kennedy Center, including a National Symphony Orchestra program, a Washington National Opera gala, a theater master class, a ballet performance and the opening concert for the 2016 Ireland Festival, according to Eileen Andrews, a spokesman. The Bidens also hosted a reception for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the vice president’s residence in Washington.

Cultural officials at the Delaware Theater Company, the Delaware Art Museum and Wilmington’s Grand Opera House describe him as a supportive presence, if an infrequent visitor. In 2012, a museum official recalled, Mr. Biden and his wife, Jill, attended the opening of an exhibition of works by the Delaware artist Mary Page Evans, a friend, whose works they hung in the vice president’s residence in Washington, the official said. And Mr. Biden appeared at the Grand Opera House for political events with Barack Obama, spoke on a tribute video for the theater, and in 2018 spoke onstage during his “American Promise” book tour.

“If you are unable to show up at a museum every week, or every month, we are going to figure it’s because you are out there doing what you do best,” said Tina Betz, director of cultural affairs for the city of Wilmington. “We need him in Washington banging his fist, stamping his feet, making sure the N.E.A. and the N.E.H. stay intact.”

As vice president, Mr. Biden is credited with helping negotiate the 2009 stimulus bill in the wake of the financial crisis that included $50 million for the arts that many institutions viewed as critical.

“We had a lot of resistance from members of Congress, especially on the Senate side to get this money in there,” said Nina Ozlu Tunceli, executive director of the Americans for the Arts Action Fund. “The only way it got in there was an agreement between Nancy Pelosi and the White House, and Joe Biden was the lead negotiator for the White House and Nancy Pelosi was the lead negotiator for the House. It was handwritten into the deal in the last minute.”

The Obama administration was the first to enter office with a presidential arts platform. So far, Mr. Biden’s current campaign has not come forward with a similar program of specific policies for the arts, though the Democratic platform acknowledges the economic worth of the arts and in an interview in August with Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mr. Biden went further.

“The future of who we are lies in the arts,” he said. “It is the expression of our soul.”
The White House of John F. Kennedy, who had Robert Frost read a poem at his inauguration, is often cited as one where the importance of the nation’s cultural life was made manifest with the routine celebration of artists at state dinners and other events. But the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum suggests in its presentations that J.F.K. was not a cultural sophisticate but rather a person who preferred Broadway show tunes over Beethoven. It quotes Jacqueline Kennedy as quipping that his favorite song was “Hail to the Chief.”

Mr. Biden’s taste in music, based on his playlists, runs toward the Beatles, Springsteen, Coldplay and Rod Stewart. The band he would like to play with, he has said, is the Chieftains, the Irish folk group. (He said he would sing “Shenandoah.”) His favorite film, he has said, ​​​​​is “Chariots of Fire.”

James Joyce is among his favorite writers, an affinity for Irish culture that links up with Mr. Biden’s heritage. His taste in poetry also runs toward the Irish. He quoted from“The Republic of Conscience” by Seamus Heaney, the Irish poet, when President Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2017.

Poetry has had a great impact on Mr. Biden’s life. As a boy, he has often recalled, he stuttered badly and was bullied at school. To cope he memorized long passages of works by writers like Emerson and Yeats, reciting them alone to his bedroom mirror so he would learn to relax his face and gain confidence. “Meek young men grow up in libraries,” was a favored Emerson quote.

Today, as a politician now known for his loquacity, he regularly quotes from Heaney’s “The Cure at Troy.” He recited some of it during his acceptance speech in August at the Democratic National Convention.

Politics, of course, is not poetry. Constrained by the realism of budget deficits, the will of Congress and competing claims for other projects, a new president may not be able to put arts at the forefront of his thinking.

But a poem can be a powerful campaign tool, as Mr. Biden made evident again Thursday when a favorite stanza from Heaney’s “Cure at Troy” went out on the candidate’s Twitter feed.

Graham Bowley is an investigative reporter on the Culture Desk. He also reported for The Times from Afghanistan in 2012. He is the author of the book “No Way Down: Life and Death on K2.”

Thanks to Americans for the Arts – Arts Action Fund for bringing this article to our attention.

2020 Congressional Arts Report Card

                                                 ​​​​​October 19, 2020

Election Day is November 3rd and early indicators show 2020 will reach historic voter turnout levels in every state. As a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, the great majority of states have encouraged mail-in/absentee voting and expanded in-person early voting.

While the national headlines focus on the presidential election, it’s important to note that all 435 U.S. House of Representative seats and one-third of the U.S. Senate are also up for election. Thousands more state and local office holders will be on the ballots as well.

The Arts Action Fund Political Action Committee (PAC) is pleased to provide you a copy of our 2020 Congressional Arts Report Card, analyzing and scoring the arts support (or lack thereof) of incumbent candidates looking to get re-elected to Congress. The Arts Action Fund PAC relies on this report to choose which pro-arts Congressional incumbents to support financially.

This Congressional Arts Report Card is also your one-stop guide to learn if members of your Congressional delegation support (or not support) the arts and arts education. I’m pleased to say that the majority of House members (252) received a passing pro-arts letter grade and a majority of Senators (54) received a “Thumbs Up” in our Report Card.

Can you help us raise $30,000 by Election Day to support our ArtsVote: Make Your Vote Count campaign?

Thank you and be sure to make your vote count!
Nina Ozlu Tunceli
Executive Director P.S.  Be Sure to download your ArtsVote State Voter Factsheet!    

NEW Oregon Artist Relief Program!

Oregon Arts commission logo

Oregon artists may now apply to a new Artist Relief Program created by the Oregon Arts Commission in partnership with The Oregon Community Foundation and the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation. Awards ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 will be distributed until the program fund, totaling just over $1.25 million, is depleted.

“Without our artists, there would be no art in Oregon,” said Brian Rogers, executive director of the Oregon Arts Commission. “We feel strongly that, in addition to the significant relief we were able to provide to arts and cultural organizations through federal CARES Act funds allocated to the National Endowment for the Arts and the Oregon Cultural Trust, we need to offer relief funding to struggling Oregon artists as well. We are extremely grateful to The Oregon Community Foundation and the Miller Foundation for joining us in that effort.”

The purpose of the Artist Relief Program is to provide relief funding to Oregon artists who have experienced financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic due to cancellations of exhibitions, performances, rehearsals or other activities with a stipend, events, teaching opportunities, book signings or other professional presentation opportunities. Guidelines are now posted on the Arts Commission website.

“In times of crisis, artists help us make sense of our world and stay connected to one another,” said Martha Richards, executive director of the Miller Foundation. “The Miller Foundation stands with Oregon artists in this difficult time because we recognize the critical roles they play in our communities and our lives–they are the foundation of our state’s arts ecosystem.”

“Oregon Community Foundation is thrilled to be a partner in this new Artist Relief program,” added Jerry Tischleder, Oregon Community Foundation’s program officer for arts and culture. “We recognize that independent and freelance artists are vital to the recovery of our communities, bringing hope and inspiration to the world while using their creativity to help process the collective trauma, grief and loss we’ve all experienced in these unprecedented times.”

The program supports professional artists from specific disciplines who have experienced or anticipate experiencing loss of revenue of $1,000 or more between March 1 and Dec. 31, 2020.

The artistic disciplines supported are: Literature (creative non-fiction, fiction, play writing and poetry); dance (including choreography); music (composition and music performance); theatre and performance art; folk and traditional arts; visual arts (crafts, drawing, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, mixed media and new media); design arts; and media arts.

Applications are due by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 10. Awards must be spent by July 31, 2021.

Artists from underserved communities, including (but not limited to) rural communities and communities of color, as well as artists with disabilities, are especially encouraged to apply.

Arts Vote Free Virtual Event

Arts Vote 2020 - Arts Vote Free Virtual Event Americans for the Arts and the Democratic National Convention

Coronavirus Relief Fund Cultural Support application now live!

Coronavirus Relief Fund Cultural Support

application now live!

Salem, Ore. – Applications are now live and open for Oregon’s Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) Cultural Support program. Funds allocated to the Oregon Cultural Trust will be available to Oregon cultural organizations facing losses due to the COVID-19 health crisis. The $25.9 million in funding was made available through a $50 million relief package for Oregon culture recently approved by the Emergency Board of the Oregon Legislature.

The distribution plan for the CRF Cultural Support program was approved at the Aug. 6 Cultural Trust Board of Directors meeting. Applications are due by noon on Monday, Aug. 24, and approved funds must be distributed by Sept. 15.

“We are grateful to the members of our Board for authorizing us to move forward with the distribution plan as soon as possible,” said Brian Rogers, executive director of the Cultural Trust. “We have worked hard to develop a statewide, equitable distribution plan and look forward to supporting our cultural community in surviving this unprecedented crisis.”

All Oregon cultural nonprofits and community venues are welcome to apply. Eligible grant recipients include, but are not limited to, cultural institutions, county fairgrounds, cultural entities within federally recognized Indian Tribes based in Oregon, and festivals and community event organizations. Funds will be distributed through the Cultural Trust statewide network of County and Tribal Cultural Coalitions. Funding will be determined based on eligible request amounts, an award allocation formula that establishes a base amount of funds per county or tribe and the organization’s fiscal size. COVID-19 expenses previously reimbursed by other federal CARES Act programs are not eligible.

Complete guidelines are posted on the Cultural Trust website.

The intended use of the CRF Cultural Support funds is to provide financial assistance to cultural nonprofit organizations and community venues that have canceled or postponed public programming because of public health executive orders associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Guidelines for the funding are in accordance with theU.S. Department of the Treasury.


The federal CARES Act requires that CRF funding only be used to cover expenses that: are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency; were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020 (the date of enactment of the CARES Act); and were incurred during the period that begins on March 1, 2020, and ends on Dec. 30, 2020.

The Cultural Trust is committed to serving Oregon’s culturally diverse and traditionally underserved communities.

Oregon Legislature approves emergency relief funding for arts and culture

Oregon Legislature approves relief funding for arts and culture

Oregon Legislature approves emergency relief funding

for arts and culture

$25.9 million allocated to Cultural Trust for statewide relief

Salem, Ore. – The Emergency Board of the Oregon Legislature approved a $50 million relief package for Oregon culture Tuesday that includes $25,984,872 to Business Oregon for statewide distribution to cultural organizations by the Oregon Cultural Trust. The funding was made available through the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund to address the devastating impact the COVID-19 health crisis is having on Oregon’s arts and cultural community.
“We are extremely grateful to lawmakers for recognizing that preserving our culture is essential as we navigate through this unprecedented crisis,” said Chuck Sams, chair of the Cultural Trust Board. “Our collective culture is the glue that binds us together as Oregonians, especially during challenging times. Arts and culture cross all boundaries and inspire us to celebrate our diversity and resilience as a people.”
The Cultural Trust is working with the Oregon Arts Commission to develop statewide, equitable funding distribution to be administered through the Cultural Trust’s County and Tribal Coalitions, said Brian Rogers, executive director of the Cultural Trust and the Arts Commission. The statewide distribution plan is expected to be reviewed by the Cultural Trust Board of Directors at its July 23 meeting. Coronavirus Relief Funds are mandated to be distributed by Sept. 15, 2020.
The remainder of the relief funding package for culture was allocated directly to several statewide cultural organizations and to for-profit and nonprofit performing venues.
Since the crisis began, nonprofit cultural organizations across the state have cancelled thousands of performances, events and activities – including key fundraising events – and most have closed their doors to the public. The loss of projected earned income, lifeblood for most cultural organizations, has resulted in significant layoffs and furloughs. Many organizations are at risk of bankruptcy and permanent closure.
A recent survey of 330 Oregon cultural nonprofits by the Cultural Trust revealed that participants projected a collective loss of $40 million and average losses of $121,281 by June 30. The majority of respondents (54 percent) have annual revenues of less than $250,000 and operate outside of the Portland Metro area.
“Our distribution of the relief funds will ensure that cultural organizations in every county, serving every geographic region of our state, will benefit,” said Rogers. “At times like these we depend on our arts, history, heritage and humanities to help us persevere. These funds will go a long way in ensuring our cultural community survives this crisis.”

About the Oregon Cultural Trust

Created in 2001 by the Oregon Legislature, the Oregon Cultural Trust is a testament to how much Oregonians value culture. No other state provides a 100 percent tax credit to inspire cultural giving. As uniquely Oregonian as public beaches and the bottle bill, the Oregon Cultural Trust was designed as an ongoing funding engine for arts and culture across the state. Oregonians fund the Cultural Trust. We, in turn, fund the artists, potters, poets, acrobats and dreamers who define our famous quality of life.
In 2019 Oregonians gave $4.5 million to the Cultural Trust. Sixty percent of that went straight back to the field. The remaining 40 percent helped grow our permanent fund. Our three grant programs fund our five Statewide Partners, 45 County and Tribal Coalitions and 1,450+ qualified cultural nonprofits through competitive Cultural Development Grants.
More information at

Important Updates on CARES Act Programs

Important Updates on CARES Act Programs

  • The deadline to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) forgivable loan through a bank or online financial institution was officially extended from June 30 to August 8, 2020. Last week, Congress unanimously voted to extend the deadline and President Trump finally signed it into law over the weekend. Please note that this is only a deadline extension and not the opportunity to apply for a second PPP. There is still more than $125 billion available for first-time PPP borrowers who are self-employed, gig artists, contractors, or a corporation or nonprofit with W2 employees. Just remember that you cannot collect pandemic unemployment if you’re also paying yourself with a PPP forgivable loan during the same covered period.


  • The extra $600 of weekly federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is still currently set to expire on July 31, 2020. For those of you who are self-employed, gig artists, or Form 1099 independent contractors and are currently collecting PUA, you may want to consider applying for a PPP loan on August 1st, which will allow you to then stagger rather than overlap federal economic relief assistance during this pandemic.


  • Americans for the Arts and the Arts Action Fund currently have an Action Alert that will enable you to send a quick email to your U.S. Representative and two U.S. Senators, urging them to approve both an extension of PUA benefits beyond 7/31/20, and allow a second round of PPP forgivable loans for existing borrowers. These two programs are particularly needed to those working in the arts, entertainment, tourism, and hospitality industries. Send your emails to Congress through our Arts Action Center.


  • On July 1st, the National Endowment for the Arts announced the names of the 855 national, state, and local nonprofit and governmental arts organizations, who were awarded $45 million in CARES Act emergency arts funding. This is in addition to the supplemental $30 million that was quickly passed through to every state and regional arts agency in April for purposes of re-granting locally within their geographic areas.


  • If you haven’t done so yet, please remember to complete your 2019 federal income tax return by July 15th, or at least request a filing extension to October 15th. The CARES Act had extended this year’s filing deadline from April 15 to July 15, but this extension does not necessarily apply to the filing deadline of your state income tax return.


Updates on CARES Act Programs Resources to Assist You:

  1. Office Hours with Nina (Free Q&A forum about the CARES Act on M, W, F @ 11am EDT)
  2. Book Nina for Your Own Webinar (Free service to share tips on CARES Act and legislation)
  3. CARES Act Table Updated 6/24/2020
  4. PPP Loan Forgiveness Application
  5. ArtsU on-demand videotaped training webinars on the CARES Act
  6. Americans for the Arts Coronavirus Resource and Response Center

2021 NEA Budget Increase Proposed

Americans for the Arts
July 7, 2020

Earlier today, the U.S House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee strongly rejected President Trump’s fourth consecutive annual budget request to eliminate both the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) by instead appropriating $170 million in funding for each for fiscal year FY 2021! This represents an increase for both agencies of $7.75 million each over the current FY 2020 funding level of $162.25 million and it is the same amount that we recommended to Congress.

Americans for the Arts and Arts Action Fund President and CEO Robert Lynch and ArtsVote 2020 Chair and Arts Action Fund Board Member Ben Folds testify before the U.S. House Interior Subcommittee on February 6, 2020.

As you will recall, Americans for the Arts and Arts Action Fund president and CEO Robert Lynch and our ArtsVote 2020 Chairman and musician Ben Folds testified in support of the $170 million budget request on February 6, 2020. (Watch Ben’s testimony here.)

Additionally, we are very pleased to share that the House bill includes specific language requested by Americans for the Arts and the Arts Action Fund to enable the NEA to waive financial matching grant requirements and to allow grantees to use the federal funds for general operating support as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  These new funds would not limit eligibility to only recent NEA grantees and would apply to FY 2021 grants as well as any outstanding FY 2020 and 2019 grant funds.

Stay tuned. This bill will proceed next to the full U.S. House Appropriations Committee, then the House floor before moving to the Senate chamber for consideration over the coming weeks and months.

Arts advocacy makes a difference. Thank you for everything you do to enrich people’s lives through the arts. If possible, please also consider contributing to the Arts Action Fund PAC.

Nina Ozlu Tunceli
Executive Director

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President's FY21 Budget Calls for Termination of Cultural Agencies Again

Americans for the Arts

February 10, 2020
For a fourth-straight year, the Trump administration has proposed to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and the Corporation of Public Broadcasting (CPB).  As misdirected as this proposal is, we are confident that Congress—as it has done in the past three fiscal years—will again reject this short-sighted budget request in a bipartisan, bicameral manner, and increase funding for these federal cultural agencies.

In the past three years, Congress not only dismissed these initial calls for termination, but in fact gave steady increases in funding to several of our nation’s cultural agencies.  Check out a brief history of budgetary proposals and final funding for these agencies for the past three years with the President’s most recent budget request in red below:

Key Federally Funded Arts AgencyPresident Trump’s
FY 19 Budget Proposal
Final FY 2019 FundingPresident Trump’s
FY 20 Budget Proposal
Final FY 2020 Funding President Trump’s
FY 21 Budget Proposal
National Endowment for the Arts
Termination$155 millionTermination$162.25 millionTermination
National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)Termination$155 millionTermination$162.25 millionTermination
Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)Termination$242 millionTermination$252 millionTermination
Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB)Termination$445 millionTermination$445 millionTermination

Be sure to check out Americans for the Arts and Arts Action Fund President and CEO Robert L. Lynch’s full statement regarding the president’s budget proposal. Additionally, ArtsVote 2020 Chair Ben Folds testified on behalf of Americans for the Arts to urge the House Appropriations Subcommittee to increase NEA funding to $170 million for FY 21. Read Bob and Ben’s written remarks and watch Ben’s testimony on the Arts Action Fund website.

Be sure to check out Americans for the Arts and Arts Action Fund President and CEO Robert L. Lynch's full statement regarding the president's budget proposal. Additionally, ArtsVote 2020 Chair Ben Folds testified on behalf of Americans for the Arts to urge the House Appropriations Subcommittee to increase NEA funding to $170 million for FY 21. Read Bob and Ben’s written remarks and watch Ben’s testimony on the Arts Action Fund website.