Arts Hold Their Own in Clinton Budget

Article excerpt

President Clinton made good on his intention to revitalize the dormant President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities by appointing Ellen McCulloch-Lovell executive director in early February. McCulloch-Lovell, former chief of staff for Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and former executive director of the Vermont Council on the Arts, will head a committee - unnamed at press time - composed of the heads of federal agencies with cultural programs and members of the private sector. The President is committed to government support for both [the NEA and NEH]," McCulloch-Lovell said. "He is also committed to increasing private support and looking for creative ways that both sectors can combine to keep our cultural life vital."

The sentiment in favor of public-private partnership was echoed by House Interior Appropriations subcommittee member Rep. Norman Dicks (D-Wash.), a guest at the quarterly meeting of the National Council on the Arts in February. (NEA chairman Jane Alexander had also invited Republican senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, whose schedule kept him from attending.) Alexander highlighted the local impact of a $420,000 NEA grant for a new performing arts complex in Dicks's Tacoma district, prompting the congressman to comment on "how important the catalytic quality of [NEA] support has been for the state of Washington. Tell [Politicians] about the importance of the arts in each of these communities."

More vigorous levels

Shortly after the council meeting, President Clinton submitted his fiscal year 1995 budget to Congress, recommending current level funding for the NEA ($170.2 million), NEH ($177.5 million) and Institute of Museum Services ($28.8 million). Because of an increase in the NEA's administrative allocation, the president's level request, if passed, would actually reduce Program funds, including a $50,000 cut to the Theater Program, a $25,000 cut to the Opera-musical Theater Program and a $98,000 cut to the Challenge Program.

"With literally hundreds of federal programs slated for reductions in the coming fiscal year, I am measurably heartened by an FY '95 budget request that maintains funding for the NEA at current levels," said chairman Alexander. "I hope that, as the economy continues to recover and the budget deficit is brought under control, Our nation will restore funding for the arts to more vigorous levels."

American Arts Alliance chairman Robert P. Bergman, director of the Cleveland Museum of Art, responded to the Clinton Administration's FY'95 budget proposal. "In the current climate of drastic budget cuts and the elimination of many federal programs, we are pleased that the President recognizes the importance of the arts to this country and left intact the budgets of three of these vital cultural agencies," he said, adding that "the Alliance will work in Washington and in communities across the country toward increasing national funding for the arts and humanities.

What the arts can do

"The arts merit government support because they help to fulfill multiple national goals," Bergman continued. "They instill values by helping people reconnect to their spirituality; bring people together through a universality that transcends deep differences and divisions in an increasingly diverse society; improve education by helping to impart knowledge, enhance cognitive development, improve analytical thinking and motivation, inspire teamwork, and help create self-esteem; and stimulate the economy through their positive impact on job creation, tax-base enhancement, increased tourism, improved community development and growth of auxiliary service jobs. …