President Obama’s proposed budget for the 2012 fiscal year includes cuts to funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Under the proposed budget, each organization’s budget would drop by 13 percent.

The cuts would mean a drop in funding from $168 million this fiscal year to $146 million next year. An explanation is given for the decision in a comprehensive budget appendix published by the President and available here (pg. 113-114):

The National Endowment for the Arts is working with its sister agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities, to better coordinate and/or consolidate their administrative functions in areas of mutual interest. Such efforts will help to reduce overhead costs at both Endowments, which could produce savings that can be reallocated to partially offset some of the grants programs.

In other words, cooperation between the two organizations could mean lower operating costs, savings which could then go back towards funding grants to arts organizations.

The Smithsonian Institution, on the other hand, sees a request for a budget raise, largely to provide funds for the renovation of older facilities and the construction of the upcoming National Museum of African American History and Culture, planned to open in 2015 but the victim to many starts and stops. Tyler Green has details:

The White House has requested $636 million in operating funds for the Smithsonian, almost exactly what the Smithsonian received in federal appropriations in FY 2010, plus $225 million in facilities capital, $100 million more than the Smithsonian received in FY 2010. That line item would support infrastructure improvements at the Cooper-Hewitt, to research facilities at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and to begin construction of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The White House is also asking for an $8 million increase in operating funds for the National Gallery of Art, from $111 million in FY 2010 to $119 million in FY 2010. The budget also supports the continuation of the NGA’s infrastructural capital projects already underway at both the East and West Buildings.

Of course, the proposed budget isn’t necessarily the one that will pass through the House and Senate. The Republicans are in the midst of responding to the plan, and the dominant feeling is that Obama doesn’t go far enough in his cuts. Arts aren’t exactly the biggest priority for the Republicans, so in any counter-response budget proposal I’m sure we’ll see these NEA, NEH and Smithsonian numbers go down quite a bit. Stay tuned for updates.

For a very short history (by the numbers) of US federal arts funding, visit “Arts Stimulus Funding & the Art Economy.”

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly, Kill Screen, Creators...

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