Robert L. Lynch Speaks of Hope, Unity, and Resilience at the End of This Presidential Election
I congratulate President-Elect Donald Trump and all of the national, state, and local elected leaders across the country who won their elections last night. I also thank Secretary Hillary Clinton for her hard-fought campaign, along with all the candidates who did not win but participated in our great democracy by running for elected office.
The historic election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States brings some uncertainty in terms of federal support for the arts. President-Elect Trump, in answering questions co-developed by Americans for the Arts during the course of the campaign, deferred to Congress on supporting increased federal funding of the National Endowment for the Arts and other federal funding for culture in general. He also deferred to state and local school districts on maintaining or increasing support for arts education funding. While he does express appreciation for arts education and the arts in his own life, specific policy positions are unknown or undeveloped.
We do know that the President-Elect is very interested in growing the U.S. economy and improving international trade deals. Arts and cultural industries contribute 4.23 percent, or $704.2 billion, of the nation’s GDP. The value added by arts and culture to the U.S. GDP is greater than that of several other sectors, including the construction industry, transportation and warehousing, mining and extraction, utilities, and agriculture. In contrast to U.S. goods and services as a whole, arts and cultural commodities are yielding a trade surplus—of $24 billion. The arts and cultural sector supports 4.7 million jobs, with more than 2.2 million people in the U.S. whose primary occupation is as an artist.
Americans for the Arts, with the support of hundreds of thousands of grassroots arts advocates in every state, will reach out to the Trump transition team and administration to share these economic numbers on the arts and culture. We will work hard to advance pro-arts policies and strengthen our efforts to transform communities through the arts. It is more important than ever that we use the arts to help the economy, our communities, families and children, and our nation to seek hope, opportunity, and ultimately to come together.
President-Elect Trump has said, “…supporting and advocating for appreciation of the arts is important to an informed and aware society. As President, I would take on that role.” We hope for a White House and administration that supports the nonprofit arts community, the local and state arts support infrastructures, as well as independent artists and creative entrepreneurs. Arts policy recommendations that the Americans for the Arts Action Fund has put forward and will continue to fight for include:
- Increasing federal funding for the arts to $1.00 per capita (an increase from 46 cents per capita);
- Fully funding and implementing the “well-rounded education” provisions within the Every Student Succeeds Act by strengthening equitable access to learning in the arts;
- Preserving or expanding charitable tax deduction incentives for giving to nonprofit arts and culture charities; and
- Establishing a cabinet-level position for the arts and culture to advise President-Elect Trump on matters such as how the arts impact the economy, diplomacy, education, and the overall well-being of citizens and the nation at large.
As the 115th Congress is sworn in this January, it is also possible that we will see more conservative and bold policies emerge with a single party controlling the House, Senate, and White House. Complex challenges may be ahead that will impact funding decisions and policy priorities, including a possible tax reform overhaul that hasn’t happened since 1986 that could impact charitable giving for nonprofit organizations. However, we look to our bipartisan congressional partners, like the long-standing Congressional Arts Caucus, the Congressional STEAM Caucus, along with new Senate Cultural Caucus leadership with the retirement of Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), to grow their ranks and press for supporting arts and culture in America. Together with all of America’s pro-arts elected officials and continued grassroots advocacy, we look forward to continuing to build upon legislative successes when the next session of Congress begins in 2017.
Further, last night, pro-arts results came in from a number of ballot initiatives at the state- and local-level. For instance, in Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Denver, Douglas, and Jefferson Counties in Colorado, a ballot initiative—Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD)—dedicates one-tenth of a 1 percent sales and use tax to cultural facilities throughout the seven-county Denver, Colorado metropolitan area. Voters overwhelmingly supported extending this through 2030, which currently generates about $55 million a year. The SCFD was first authorized in 1988 and has since been reauthorized twice in 1994 and 2004, respectively. It is local efforts like these that can make real impact in communities all across America. Several arts education funding referendums were also overwhelmingly passed last night by voters in Pinellas County, Florida and Tucson/Pima County, Arizona.
Americans for the Arts will continue to recognize and advance support for the arts and arts education among the nation’s bipartisan state legislators, county officials, mayors, lieutenant governors and governors through a robust set of partnerships that promote leadership in the arts each year.
It’s also important that those of us in the nonprofit arts sector remember the great strength and resiliency that binds us together. For more than 60 years Americans for the Arts has worked with the infrastructures and governments of our communities to make people’s lives better. And of course the arts have helped our communities in different ways for thousands of years before that.
As President-Elect Trump’s administration takes shape, we will remain engaged to ensure that he and his transition team hear from arts leaders, community leaders, and activists and keep the arts central to the many pressing needs of the country. We will unite and strengthen our efforts to show that the arts represent the best of humanity, and urge President-Elect Trump’s administration to advance pro-arts policies that will impact our society, communities, and generations to come.
This blog also appeared on The Huffington Post.