Uncertain Arts Funding

Uncertain Arts Funding: Act Now!

By Michael Stotts, Managing Director
(Coordinated by Theresa MacNaughton, Community Engagement Associate)

The 2018 federal budget plan revealed by President Donald J. Trump has proposed the elimination of funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Concurrently, the Connecticut General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee will soon vote on state budget line items directly affecting the state’s producing theatres. Both measures pose an imminent threat to Hartford Stage and many other nonprofit arts organizations in the state which depend on funding for creative and impactful arts programming.

Proposing the elimination of the NEA, NEH and CPB is sending the wrong message to the public about the critical nature of the arts and humanities in our society. At Hartford Stage, the NEA has been a catalyst for the creation of exceptional works of theatre, and has supported efforts to make it possible for tens of thousands of students to experience the work of William Shakespeare, many for the first time. These programs shape a diverse national culture that should set an example for the rest of the world. To eliminate what amounts to a very small dollar amount in the overall federal budget has wide-reaching effects. 

According to the Washington Post, funding for the national endowments represent a small fraction of the nearly $4 trillion total federal budget. In 2016, the NEA and the NEH each received $148 million which made up .006% of federal spending. For more than 50 years, the NEA has expanded access to the arts for all Americans, awarding grants in every Congressional district throughout all 50 states and U.S. territories. The NEA is also an economic powerhouse, generating more than $600 million annually in additional matching funds and helping to shape a $730 billion arts and culture industry that represents 4.2% of the nation’s GDP and supports 4.8 million jobs. It would be crippling to the arts in Connecticut and throughout the country if the NEA was eliminated.

On the state level, Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy has proposed eliminating the line item funding that provides annual support to the Flagship Producing Theatres in Connecticut (Hartford Stage, Goodspeed Musicals, Long Wharf Theatre, the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, Westport Country Playhouse and Yale Repertory Theatre). The Governor is proposing a more modest investment in the arts through a general fund, which would make it less reliable for our theatres to receive funding. While arts funding has not been totally excised from the budget, the rescissions Hartford Stage has experienced over the past few years have reduced funding by over 50% and are already affecting our ability to carry out programs.

James Seol, Zach Appelman and Cliff Miller in 'Hamlet' (2014). Photo by T. Charles Erickson.
James Seol, Zach Appelman and Cliff Miller in Hamlet (2014). Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

Collectively, the Flagship theatres infuse Connecticut with $42 million in economic activity and have garnered top accolades and awards which have secured Connecticut’s reputation as a theatrical powerhouse nationwide. While there has been much discussion and reporting about a mass exodus from Connecticut, here is an abundance of world class arts and cultural assets that contribute to the quality of life that keeps so many more people here. The Flagships represent millions of dollars in taxable payrolls and material purchases in the state. Together, they create more than 1,700 jobs and reach over 380,000 patrons each year and touch the lives of more than 40,000 students. The return on the State’s investment is consistently over 400%. According to Americans for the Arts, the arts are the second largest employer in the State of Connecticut after the State itself.