by Deron Hall
For more than 50 years, the NEA has been tasked with ensuring arts-based funding across every congressional district in the United States. This year was no different, with $148 Million allocated to arts and culture programs across the nation through state arts agencies, regional arts agencies, and grants directly from the National Endowment for the Arts. NEA’s contributions are meaningful, even in the context of the larger $730 Billion arts and culture industry in America. But for organizations serving black and brown communities, the NEA’s resources are a lifeline of critical support.
According to “Diversity in the Arts: The Past, Present, and Future of African American and Latino Museums, Dance Companies, and Theatre Companies,” “When grant funding is slashed, the organizations that suffer the most are smaller groups, which have lower levels of visibility….This means that arts organizations of color – along with rural, avant-garde, and service organizations – suffer disproportionately.” Additionally, “…approximately 60 percent of funding for mainstream (eurocentric) arts organizations came from individual donors, while for African American and Latino organizations only 6 percent of funding came from individual donors. Why is this important? Because there are a limited number of institutional donors, and their gifts tended to be limited in size.”
Removing the Federal institutional support of the National Endowments for the Arts, as proposed by the 45th Presidential administration, would be a destructive and destabilizing force not only for arts organizations of color, but also for the youth, families, and communities they impact through their work. The time is now to speak up and advocate for the arts and our communities.
But what does this mean for Memphis? Last year, more than $1 million in funding supported arts and culture organizations across Shelby County from federally funded programs. Organizations like PRIZM Ensemble, that builds diverse communities through chamber music education, youth development and performance. Organizations like Angel Street, that mentors girls from disinvested communities to become leaders through the power of choir. Organizations like the Memphis Black Arts Alliance that seek to improve the quality of life and economic well being of Memphians through the preservation, celebration, and advancement of African-American arts. Because these organizations have been often overlooked by mainstream funding and investment, the support that flows from the NEA to the state is critical for their sustainability.
What can we do? While the administration’s recommendations for the budget continue to be debated, there are actions that you can take right now to advocate for the National Endowment for the Arts.
- Reach out to members of Congress: Americans for the Arts has released a customizable tool to help you advocate with the right information and feel empowered to reach out the U.S. House Switchboard here: (202) 225-3121 – you can also sign this petition directly to the administration
- Understand the budgeting process: Use this link to learn more about the process for budget approval and learn more about what’s at stake
- The NEA is the single largest national funder of nonprofit arts in America. NEA grants help leverage more than a 9 to 1 match in private charitable gifts and other state and local public funding.
- The NEA also has a significant partnership with the states, with 40 percent of program funds distributed through state arts agencies.
- With only a $148 million annual budget, the NEA investments in the arts helps contribute to a $730 billion economic arts and culture economic industry, including 4.2 percent of the annual GDP and supporting 4.8 million jobs that yields a $26 billion trade surplus for the country.
- For more than 50 years, the NEA has expanded access to the arts for all Americans, awarding grants in your congressional district and throughout all 50 states and U.S. Territories.
- In an example of its reach, the NEA funding reaches small, rural towns through its “Our Town” grants and specifically helps our wounded soldiers and veterans with effective arts therapy.
Deron Hall has developed and executed multi-million dollar strategies, initiatives, & programs for schools, community centers, community development corporations, philanthropies, and others. A graduate of the top ten ranked University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (MM ’13, Music) and the Executive Program in Arts and Culture Strategy at University of Pennsylvania, he currently serves as the Director of Partnerships and Research for the Memphis Music Initiative, a 5-year $25MM music and youth engagement funding initiative. He was the 2013 Distinguished Young Alumnus award recipient from CCM.