NEA sends $2 million-plus to Chicago

NEA sends $2 million-plus to Chicago

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A National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Induction (Getty/Paul Hawthorne)
Even as Congress and the White House tussle over a Fiscal 2012 budget, the National Endowment for the Arts has spent the last of its Fiscal 2011 cash in a series of grants announced last month in which a number of Chicago organizations picked up federal bucks.

Chicago theater industry recipients are (in alphabetical order): Barrel of Monkeys Productions ($8,000), Chicago Children’s Theatre ($20,000), Chicago Shakespeare Theater ($75,000), Child’s Play Touring Theatre ($20,000), Goodman Theatre ($100,000), Emerald City Theatre Company ($10,000), League of Chicago Theatres Foundation ($10,000), Light Opera Works ($20,000), Redmoon Theatre ($50,000), Storycatchers Theatre ($7,000) and Trap Door Productions ($5,000).

In addition, another 33 NEA grants went to institutions supporting music, dance, traditional arts, presenting and arts education ranging from the American Library Association ($20,000) to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra ($20,000) to the Jazz Institute of Chicago ($20,000) to the River North Dance Company ($10,000) and Sones de Mexico Ensemble ($35,000). Even the City of Chicago got some NEA cash, with a grant of $75,000 to the Chicago Cultural Center Foundation, a last legacy of the old Department of Cultural Affairs and its former Commissioner, Lois Weisberg.

In all, Illinois organizations received 43 grants totaling $2,280,400.

Meanwhile, the annual battle over the Federal budget is just heating up with the Federal government staying in business on a continuing resolution as Congress and the Prez go down to the wire on a budget deal that will raise the debt ceiling and cut spending. Already, however, Arts in Education has been axed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. On May 26, the House Education and Workforce Committee approved a resolution to cut 43 programs from the Department of Education, with Arts in Education among them. Collectively, these programs were part of the so-called “No Child Left Behind” Act, and funding for them could be restored—and that’s a big “could”—when the full House and Senate take up re-authorizing “No Child Left Behind.”

In better news, the House rejected Republican-sponsored resolutions to zero-fund the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and heard prepared testimony May DATE from Rocco Landesman, chairman of the NEA, in support of President Obama’s request for $146.25 million for the NEA in Fiscal 2012 (which officially begins July 1). That figure represents a 13% cut in the 2011 budget, or the same funding as in 2008. The NEA is prepared to live with that and tighten its belt, in part by consolidating administrative functions with the NEH wherever possible.

The proposed 2012 Obama budget wasn’t all bad news for arts and culture: the request for the National Gallery of Art was $119 million, up from $111 million, and the request for the Smithsonian Institution was $636 million for operations plus $225 million for capital projects, some of which will flow to art museums such as the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York City.

In its May round of grants, the NEA announced $914,400 for the Illinois Arts Council, the highest-ever level of NEA support. As mandated by Congress, the NEA must pass along a substantial part of its annual budget in the form of direct support for state arts agencies.

The Fiscal 2012 proposal for the Illinois Arts Council (IAC) itself is $11.4 million, up from $9.3 million last year. Of course, given the ocean of red ink the State faces, it’s anyone’s guess if that level of support will hold up in the final Illinois budget.

Alas, the arts always make an attractive and easy target for budget-cutters who fail to comprehend the economic impact of the arts collectively as an industry. Just days ago, Kansas Republican governor Sam Brownback vetoed funding for the Kansas Arts Council, killing the 45-year old agency. The cash savings to Kansas tax payers? $689,000 representing .005% of the state’s budget. The cash loss to Kansas tax payers? The NEA pass-through which would have been $778,200 plus another $437,800 in matching funds from the Mid-America Arts Alliance. That $1.2 million now will go to other states.