NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

What Would Happen If Federal Arts Funding Disappeared?

April 4, 1997

In the latest Policy Review magazine, Harvard's William Craig Rice looks at what would happen to the arts in America if National Endowment for the Arts funding were to dry up.

  • New York's Metropolitan Opera -- the NEA's single largest recipient -- would only have to add $1.50 to its ticket prices, which already average $125.
  • The Art Institute of Chicago would certainly survive -- since it gets only 1 percent of its budget from NEA.
  • In fact, NEA funding makes up only 1 percent of all arts spending in the country.
  • Smaller arts groups look to NEA grants as a federal stamp of approval -- and leverage for more money from private sources.

Critics point out that one-third of all NEA grants goes to just six of the country's biggest cities -- underscoring the charge that the agency is basically elitist. They say NEA supporters have trouble explaining why Montana taxpayers should be forced to subsidize the culture of cities they may never visit. If arts subsidies were truly needed, they argue, then let local governments do the job.

President Clinton's budget for 1998 would boost NEA funding by 36 percent -- to $136 million.

Source: Perspective, "Art for Art's Sake," Investor's Business Daily, April 4, 1997.


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