Thanks to the many arts advocates and advocacy organizations on a local, statewide, and national level, arts funding has stayed the course over the last few years and the sector has received critical relief funding to offset the devastating effects of the COVID pandemic. On one level, we have much to be grateful for in weathering this storm. On the other, the sector has barely kept pace while fighting cuts.
As we rejoice in maintaining the status quo–who hasn’t heard “stable funding is the new increase”–it's important to remember that now is the time to fight for real increases.
In every year of the previous administration, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities were eliminated from the President’s budget. It was only because of the bipartisan support in Congress that both agencies endured and this past year received historic increases. In Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan’s administration oversaw healthy arts budgets. However, that was only after the State Legislature fought back against his proposed cuts. In fact, the arts were awarded an additional $40 million in relief funds with grants currently being administered through the Maryland State Arts Council. The arts, while sometimes a culture wars flashpoint, have historically found common ground across political parties.
Maryland is unique. Every county in our state has its own arts council. That means that every county gets funding from the Maryland State Arts Council, and every legislator has constituents who benefit from this support–as it should be.
As we swim in the murky seas of the current political decisiveness, we can agree that the arts and humanities are good for all of us, that children deserve to have them in schools, that communities deserve to have libraries, and that we all need creative and communal spaces to gather, share, and discover our common concerns.
October is coming to a close and along with it, the final days of National Arts and Humanities Month. It’s a good time to reflect on the riches available to us and the ways in which we are willing to not only fight to keep them, but also ensure that support for them continues to grow.
P.S. Congratulations to the 18 organizations awarded grants through Baltimore City's $2 million Cultural Spaces Capital Support Fund. As private funding for arts in the region continues to shrink, funding from the city and counties becomes ever more essential!