Phoney Baloney Insiders

I reported on the DC Advocates for the Arts blog yesterday that President Obama’s FY 12 proposed budget will trigger major changes in the DC cultural landscape. In addition to reductions to the NEA and NEH which will affect local grant-making, the proposed budget would eliminate the National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs Program (as DC has known it) by turning guaranteed operating support funding from the US Commission on Fine Arts into semi-competitive grants administered by the District’s arts agency. I wrote yesterday,

“The NCACA funding program was a major support for the largest local DC arts employers and this reduction – from 9.5 million to 5 million – will impact our community in unforeseen ways. Operating support offered via grant from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH) was capped at $30,000 in FY 11, and was a minority priority within the DCCAH granting program. This integration will likely lead to major overhaul of the DCCAH’s funding structures.”

Government granting programs are designed around community need, and the policy priorities set to address those opportunities. Looking immediately toward DC’s FY 12 budget season it’s clear the President’s FY 12 budget is likely to trigger revision in local arts agency granting programs. Not only do the largest employers need help, but the DCCAH has now been given an additional 5 million to address their needs. Local arts agency granting programs are probably due for review anyway:  the agency budget has been halved in the last three years, and the economic downturn has potentially impacted government funding priorities.

Last weekend was the first meeting for four new board members of the DC Advocates for the Arts, and in preparing for that meeting I thought about my responsibility in encouraging our new leadership to gain subject matter expertise. The non-profit arts eco-system is almost as complex as the political system, and it’s important our organization continues to educate itself so that we can really encourage best practice public policy solutions. One’s subject matter expertise affects how one approaches any problem, and I hope community expertise will be harnessed and transparency exercised if revision of the granting programs occurs.

Author: Robert Bettmann

Founder of Day Eight, and the DC Arts Writing Fellowship.