cultured.GR Editor’s Note: This article is the start of the “Federal dollars, local impact” series of conversations with local organizations who have received NEA funding right in our own community. We’ll talk to them about how access to those grants have been essential to the work they do, and how the average taxpayer’s 46 cent investment leverages an immense community impact–for the artists, organizations, and our neighbors alike.
Communities across America have a stake in the future of arts funding. Michigan is no exception.
Art is not only a driver for our economy, it is a key expression of our identity — creating connections across cultures, strengthening communities, and driving innovation. The Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposed by the Trump administration calls for the elimination of our federal cultural institutions, including the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), and the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS). These independent federal agencies provide opportunities for Americans to participate in the arts, experience and share culture, and access vital information.
We cannot afford to lose vital NEA funding in our state, community, schools, and economy.
In an era when civil discourse and freedom of expression are urgently needed in American politics, we cannot allow cuts to arts and culture programs that inspire new ideas, connect people and create economic and civic impact across American communities. Michigan’s future depends on the ability to imagine a tomorrow that engages and benefits everyone — and together, we believe we can get there.
The NEA catalyzes art and creativity across the nation.
In 2016, the NEA awarded more than 2,400 grants nationally, reaching nearly 16,000 communities across every Congressional District in the country. These grants enhance access to the arts throughout the state and ensure those in rural communities and low-income groups have an opportunity to leverage these critical funds. Forty percent of NEA grant supporting funds are allocated to high-poverty neighborhoods, 36 percent to organizations working with underserved populations and 25 percent of state arts agency grants going to rural communities. The NEA has been able to do all of this and more on a meager budget of $147.9 million in FY 2016, a mere .004% of the federal budget and less than the cost of a postage stamp per taxpayer.
During these changing times, Creative Many Michigan is working alongside individuals from all walks of life, in every corner of the state and across party lines to champion the arts as an essential force in Michigan and across our nation — especially critical to imagining a future that benefits us all.
The economic impact of these cuts is profound.
According to Americans for the Arts, the arts employ 4.8 million workers and are a robust $730 billion industry which contributes 4.2 percent to the nation’s GDP — a larger share of the economy than the transportation, tourism and agriculture industries. The arts and culture industries are one of the only economic sectors to yield a trade surplus (of nearly $30 billion), creating job opportunities in local communities that cannot be outsourced. Michigan alone employed just under 89,000 people in over 10,000 businesses in the creative industries in 2014 — adding nearly $5 billion in wages to the state economy according to the Creative State Michigan(r) 2016 Creative Industries research released by Creative Many. Our annual research of nonprofit arts and culture organizations in Michigan found that more than $665 million in direct expenditures to Michigan’s economy were spent by the 419 organizations included in the research — representing only 16 percent of all nonprofit arts organizations statewide.
NEA grants provide a significant return on investment.
In Michigan, in 2016 alone, the NEA awarded 51 direct grants, distributing a total of $1,965,600 to artists, nonprofit organizations, communities and schools. Additionally, $770,000 of NEA funds were allocated to the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA) and combined with significant state funds to support 328 program, operations and capital improvement grants in 112 communities statewide.
Every $1 of NEA funding was used by states and communities to leverage up to $9 in private and other public funds, resulting in $500 million in matching support in 2016. An NEA grant can be a catalyst to other funding opportunities and community-wide development. Why? Because winning an NEA grant sends a clear message that the grantee is operating an impactful local program of top national quality and deserving of investment.
The impact in Michigan is broad and inspiring.
More than numbers, the NEA investment in Michigan affects the lives of real people, providing a concrete reason for communities to collaborate and create. Here are just a few examples of the inspiring projects funded throughout Michigan.
Power of Public Art in Jackson, Michigan
The mere idea of available federal grant dollars for community development in and through the arts brought leaders together from the City of Jackson to dream about possible uses. Four years later, after a great deal of fundraising and community organizing, The Glidden Parker Mural at CP Federal Credit Union Square has taken a historic piece of artwork out of storage and created a landmark community gathering space — using public art as “an inspiring tool in rebuilding, reinventing our city,” according to City of Jackson Vice Mayor Derek Dobies.
Hands-on Education in Detroit, Grand Rapids and Northern Michigan
Educational enrichment for youth and communities is a pillar of NEA investments. Projects like the Excel Photography Program through Focus: HOPE in Detroit and the Teen Arts + Tech Program of the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology in Grand Rapids bring technical and artistic skills into the hands of students — providing personal development in self-confidence, discipline and leadership.
Communities in Houghton, Michigan explore music in nature with “Listening to Parks,” an Imagine Your Parks project in collaboration with the National Park Service. Visual and sound artists collaborate to create a touring interactive and immersive multimedia installation using recordings from the some of the most beautiful places in the world. Field recordings are then transformed by composer Elizabeth Meyer into a new composition performed by the Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra, with educational programs for students and the general public.
From Vacant to Vibrant in Flint, Michigan
Creative place making is key to the NEA-funded project in Flint through the Center for Land Reform and the Center for Community Progress. A 2016 Our Town NEA project grant set out to examine barriers to developing vacant properties in ways that support equitable revitalization, promoting vitality through the use of space.
Connecting Neighborhoods in Detroit, Escanaba and throughout Michigan
Creativity connects and attracts people in powerful ways. NEA support for Power House Productions in Detroit enabled the artist-run neighborhood-based nonprofit to integrate arts and culture into the daily lives of a diverse Detroit community. They create public spaces for the exchange of ideas, opinions and experiences, as well as opportunities for artists to push their practice in new and meaningful directions.
The William Bonifas Fine Arts Center in Escanaba, Michigan invested in technology to connect Michigan travelers statewide through an NEA Challenge America Fast Track grant. A database of arts organizations, galleries, and artist studios located in the Upper Peninsula was created and published in the Art Tour of the U.P. map — an essential tool to inform the rest of the state on the creativity and culture in northern Michigan. The collected information will be distributed to visitor centers in the lower peninsula and northern Wisconsin.
Add your voice to the conversation.
Visit www.creativemany.org/nea-toolkit for a comprehensive list of ways to get involved and make an impact — such as writing your own Op-Ed and reaching out to local representatives.
If we stay silent about our interests, we will be left with policies that do not reflect our values. Join us in the fight for the future of Michigan’s “Creative Many.” Your voice is needed.
Creative Many Michigan
As the statewide champion for the arts and creative industries in Michigan, Creative Many Michigan is committed to developing creative people, creative places and the creative economy for a competitive Michigan through research, advocacy, professional practice, funding and communications to promote the collective power of creativity in our state. For more information visit www.creativemany.org.