I want to save money. So does the US government. With the US economy barely on its feet after the recession (see Dow Jones Industrial Stock Average, here) and the unemployment rate still close to double digits (see unemployment rate, here), the government is looking for ways to cut the budget, to reduce the national deficit. One of the agencies on the hot seat is the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA). The NEA (see website, here) is an organization that essentially preserves, restores, supports, and funds art project. The NEA is “dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established, bringing the arts to all Americans, and providing leadership in arts education” (Website). While it is an independent agency, the NEA still receives money from the government. In fact, the cost of the program is $167.5 million dollars. While that may seem like a lot, the NEA is only 0.012% of the overall budget and costs lest than 25 cents per American (Gee).
Still, I thought that this type of program was exactly what the government needed to cut, as the NEA was something that does not directly benefit Americans. I am not an artist or for that matter very artistic. However, after more research, I found that the NEA helps fund museums (including the Smithsonian), gives art educations to the needy, preserves famous American art pieces, and provides grants (they are the largest grant maker for arts in the US) to different artistic projects. This list includes many places that I and many others take for granted. However, some politicians have been steadfast in their belief of closing the NEA. There have been different attempts to abolish the NEA, starting from 1981, 1989, 1990, 1995-1997, and 2009 (“National Endowment for the Arts”). However, the NEA still exists.
For me, art has always been important, but not as necessary as other areas, such as education and city purposes. Despite me not being very into art, and initially wanting to eliminate the NEA, when I saw that it only was 0.012% of the overall budget, I began to change my opinion. I personally believe that considering the significance of art in society today, not just paintings and sculptures, but visual arts as well, the NEA is an incredibly small price to pay to support up and coming artists and also preserve historically significant pieces of art. While we may be progressing into a more technology-based society, we must not forget our past and the art that helped express so many ideas and thoughts for both social and religious purposes. For example, David (image, here), the famous masterpiece sculpture by Michelangelo, shows a visual representation of the David and Goliath story from the Bible (Khan).
Despite this though, art is no longer primarily used to show wealth and power. According to John McKay, Lorenzo de’ Medici, a Florentine oligarch, and his family spent 663,755 gold florins (their currency) for art over a period of 35 years. De’ Medici stated that he thought “it casts a brilliant light on our estate [public reputation] and it seems to me that the monies were well spent and I am very pleased with this” (McKay 421). While it would seem that that would be extremely excessive, it goes to show the importance and cultural significance of art. But still, despite being in a post-recession era, $167.5 million dollars seems like a lot of money. However, even I recognize that 0.012% in the grand scheme of things is just enough.
Gee, Bill. “How Is Art an Example of Government Waste?.” Nolan Chart. N.p., 31 January 2011. Web. 1 Mar 2012. <http://www.nolanchart.com/article8321-how-is-art-an-example-of-government-waste.html>.
Khan, Salman. ed. “Patronage: A Case Study (David).” SmartHistory. Khan Academy, n.d. Web. 1 Mar 2012.
McKay, John, Bennett Hill, et al. A History of Wester3n Society. B. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008. Print.
“National Endowment for the Arts.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 6 January 2012. Web. 1 Mar 2012.