US arts funding hit record low in 2011
Contributions from the government and public dipped significantly, according to an annual survey, but the sector shows signs of recovery
By Julia Halperin. Web only
Published online: 24 September 2013
Government arts funding in the US reached a record low in 2011, according to most recent edition of the National Arts Index, published last week by the non-profit organisation Americans for the Arts. Nevertheless, increased public engagement and positive economic forecasts suggest that the industry is slowly rebounding from the 2008 recession.
Local government spending on the arts dropped by 21% between 2008 and 2011. On a federal level, arts spending made up just 0.28% of the government’s non-military budget in 2011, down from 0.4% in 2002. There was also a rise in the number of non-profit arts organisations operating at a deficit (43% in 2011 from 36% in 2007), due in part to the decreased funding across all levels of government.
“While just a small piece of the arts funding model, government dollars are vital to the arts sector,” says Robert Lynch, the president of Americans for the Arts. “Even when audience demand rises, as it did in 2011, decreases in public funding can stifle an organisation’s ability to fully reach and engage their community.”
The percentage of American households donating money to the arts also continued to drop—as it has every year since 2007—to 8.6%.
Overall, however, the report suggests that the arts sector is slowly recovering from the recession. The number of Americans volunteering for the arts grew from 1.8 million in 2010 to 2 million in 2011, an 11% spike. Arts employment remained steady and the average annual salary for arts professionals kept pace with inflation, reaching $52,000.
The report’s authors emphasize that anecdotal evidence and recent economic data suggest that the arts industry has grown healthier since 2011. Roland Kushner, an economist who co-authored the report, says in a statement: “We’ve seen broad improvements in the economy, employment and philanthropy since 2011, all of which suggest that the arts are poised for higher index scores in years to come.”
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