Monday, November 27, 2006

The arts did well in the election, too

Last week I mentioned that a lot of land-conservation bond issues around the U.S. passed easily on November 7th. It turns out that local referenda to fund the arts also did great.

Americans for the Arts reports that in eleven cities or counties plus one state, Americans voted to tax themselves for the arts or art education. The list includes the state of Louisiana; Akron (OH); Alameda County/San Leandro (CA); Alameda County/Berkeley (CA); Austin (TX); Cuyahoga County/Cleveland (OH); Dallas (TX); Marin County (CA); Portland (OR); Salt Lake County (UT); San Francisco(CA); and Santa Clara County (CA). Some of them were one-time bond issues and others were new standing taxes; if we use the ten-year total on the latter the total funding passed was something like $1.3 billion. That's without counting Louisiana's measure which was actually a tax exemption for works of art, the exact value of which is hard to project.

That may not sound like a lot in national context given this country's huge public funding for the arts (of which the NEA is a drop in the bucket), not to mention that tax-deductible philanthropy for the arts had by 2004 reached nearly $14 billion per year (quintuple, after inflation, what it was in 1964; figures are from the Giving USA 2005 report). But the really exciting part may be the precedent: unlike the land conservation referenda this election, not one ballot initiative for the arts failed to pass. Twelve for twelve is as good as it gets in any game.

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