Americans for the Arts Interim President and CEO General Nolen Bivens (U.S. Army Ret.) submitted official testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies to support federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) at no less than $176 million for FY 2022—at least an $8.5 million increase over FY 2021 funding. This ask matches the most recent highpoint of NEA funding of $176 million in FY 1992.
In submitted testimony, Bivens expressed deep appreciation to Congress and the bipartisan work of the Subcommittee and focused his testimony on the vital impact of the NEA—particularly in creating jobs and generating public funds—and the remarkably far-reaching nature of the NEA, touching communities that have fewer opportunities to experience the arts. With the majority of direct grants going to small- and medium-sized organizations, the NEA often support projects for audiences that otherwise might not have access to arts programming. Bivens stressed that we must continue to strongly support federal funding of the arts, as it fosters investment, spurs job-related growth, expands educational opportunities, is essential to rural communities, and provides for the preservation of our heritage.
The testimony highlighted the NEA’s funding to Local Arts Agencies (LAAs) and the vital importance they hold in serving their communities. LAAs collectively are responsible for approximately $912 million in public and private grantmaking annually. They are also the largest grantmaker to individual artists. LAAs work directly for or with mayors, city managers, county supervisors, and township managers as well corporate CEOs, real estate developers, and social service providers in every size community across the country. Additionally, LAAs have taken the lead in equity-centered grantmaking in their cities, counties, and rural and suburban areas. They have been entrusted with federal, state, and local funds, including CDBG grants and CARES Act and American Rescue Plan Act state and local block grant funds to support emergency relief grants to arts and culture small businesses, nonprofit institutions, individual gig artists, and entrepreneurs. Without NEA funding to LAAs, this enormous impact would be lost.
This powerful message was shared at the recent National Arts Action Summit April 5-9, 2021. The case for increased funding for the NEA was made during the many sessions of the Summit, and in the 2021 Congressional Arts Handbook. The Handbook details facts and figures that show why supporting the NEA is vital to advancing the arts in America. Following the Summit, Arts Advocacy Week took place April 12-16 where advocates met with their members of Congress virtually. In these meetings, advocates shared authentic data and compelling stories supporting the same ask made in Bivens’s testimony.