The NEA and Its Impact

 

 

The year 1965 was a mixed bag. “The Sound of Music” played to crowds.  The Beatles released “Help.” Music legend Jerry Garcia came on the scene. More troops were sent to Vietnam.  Women hiked up their hemlines to don the mini skirt. The civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery rocked the country. President Lyndon Johnson envisioned The Great Society, introducing Medicare and launching the National Endowment for the Arts. Communities across the country, including our own, were given a stake in the arts in America.

The arts are not only good for the soul but, according to Americans for the Arts (AFTA), they’re also good for the economy. AFTA reports that 4.8 million Americans work in arts and culture industries, and that the arts generate $22.3 billion in federal, state and local government revenue. In Westchester, 4,800 individuals work in the cultural industry and produce a $156 million economic impact.

The major driver of arts initiatives across the country is the National Endowment for the Arts, which distributes some $148 million a year to organizations nationwide in every congressional district.  However, warning clouds have been circling the NEA for some time and, right now, it is unclear as to whether the agency will survive efforts in Washington to disband it.

Senators Schumer and Gillibrand know that, in New York, funding for the arts is essential. In 2016 alone, the NEA awarded a total of $16,717,675 in grant money to 522 nonprofit and governmental arts organizations. Of this NEA funding, over $750,000 went to New York State Council on the Arts. The state then matched these federal funds and awarded grants to 1,240 arts organizations in 215 communities across New York State – including, of course, Westchester.

NEA grants provide a significant return on investment of federal dollars, as $1 of NEA direct funding leverages up to $9 in private and other public funds, which resulted in $500 million in matching support in 2016. NEA grants are indeed coveted. Why? Because winning one tells the world that the grantee is operating an impactful local program of top national quality. But it’s not just about New York and Westchester, it’s about our nation and “for what it stands.”

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