Two weeks ago, we pointed out that Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was proposing severe cuts in the budget of the federally funded National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Now, this week the Obama Administration has released their 2013 budget request to Congress, which requests to raise funding to a number of the countries’s cultural agencies and programs, including the NEA.

If the House and Senate listen to Obama’s recommendation, then  the NEA’s 2012 budget of $146 million could be raised approximately 5% to $154 million, which would return it (almost) to 2011 funding levels ($155 million).

The Americans for the Arts, which is a nonprofit organization that advocates for arts and arts education, has been a vocal advocate for art funding for decades, and they are asking that arts fans call their representatives to support the Whit House proposal. The organization’s president & CEO Robert Lynch had the following to say in a statement :

“The administration request of $154 million for the National Endowment for the Arts marks a greatly needed increase. Since 2010 the NEA has been cut $22 million, reducing it to $146 million last year, which threatens its ability to make critical grants throughout the country. By boosting specific funding for programmatic grants by $6.75 million, the White House is sending a clear message that it understands the importance of the creative sector to our communities and economy and the incredible return on investment those funds generate to federal, state and local treasuries.”

Here is a breakdown of the Obama Administration’s FY 2013 budget request, as compiled by the Americans for the Arts:

Key Federally Funded Arts ProgramFY 2012 Enacted
(in millions)
FY 2013 President’s
Budget Request
(in millions)
National Endowment for the Arts$146$154
National Endowment for the Humanities$146$154
Institute of Museum and Library Services$232$232
U.S. Dept. of Education’s Arts in Education$25$0*
Corporation for Public Broadcasting$445$445

The LA Times points out what this all means for two major arts instituions in DC:

The Smithsonian Institution, by far the heavy hitter of federal cultural spending, would receive $856.8 million — a 3.7% hike for its operating budget, which would rise to $660.3 million, and a 12.3% increase in capital expenditures, to $196.5 million. The biggest capital expense would be $85 million, to continue construction on the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The National Gallery of Art is also in line for a nice raise: Obama is calling for a 5.2% increase in its operating budget (to $120 million) and an $8.5-million increase in spending for renovations and repairs, up to $23 million. The total, $143 million, would be an 11.2% increase.

None of this, of course, means that Obama’s proposal will be passed but at least we know where the two candidates stand on federal arts funding. Now there’s the thorny question on whether Romney will eventually become the GOP nominee and where his opponents stand on the same issue. Though if their track records are anything to go by then Newt “Privatize the NEA” Gingrich and Ron “No Government Funding” Paul won’t be any better and may potentially be less friendly towards the NEA than Romney. Rick Santorum, on the other hand, has the potential to surprise us.

*Similar to previous year’s administration budget proposals, the Arts in Education program is consolidated with six non-arts programs. It is unclear at what level grants in arts education will be supported.

Top image via BigStock

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

2 replies on “Obama Differentiates Himself from Romney on NEA Funding, Wants Increase”

  1. When you remove the arts from any patronage funding by the state, a society loses a very special component of life. There is more to living than struggling through work. We live to create. On the financial end, investing in the arts creates jobs, adding a good return on the investment. Without music, dance, painting, sculpture to express ourselves, we become nothing but drones. The arts lift the human spirit, make the soul soar. Imagination integrates into products of beauty and practicality. Good for the president. I pray congress, in its insane moments now, sees the sanity in funding the arts.

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