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Arts funding: a cliffhanger in Washington

February 12, 2009 |  2:11 pm

Casey at the BatThe outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville Nine last night -- Ernest Lawrence Thayer's hometown ball club in "Casey at the Bat" being Culture Monster's fanciful metaphor for the arts advocates and lobbyists who've been trying to bring home some bucks for nonprofit creative workers from the $789-billion economic recovery package being mulled by Congress. But apparently the prospects have improved today so that, this time, Mighty Casey has not struck out.

"Last night we were hearing from Congressional leaders that the arts would be removed" from the final  bill that House and Senate conferees were hammering out, said a spokeswoman for the advocacy group Americans for the Arts.  But by early afternoon, Pacific time, less discouraging word had come down from Capitol Hill, with "multiple Congressional sources" telling Americans for the Arts that the stimulus bill would include $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts. 

Nothing will be certain until later today, when the final bill is expected to become public. It then will be up for a vote in each house of Congress.

The House's version of the stimulus bill included the $50 million for nonprofit arts groups, with the NEA to send $20 million of it to state arts agencies, and distribute the rest via its own grant-making pipeline. The Senate's proposal contained zilch, incorporating an amendment from Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn that specifically excluded museums, theaters and arts centers from receiving stimulus bucks, lumping them among  other "wasteful" and "non-stimulative" destinations for federal money aimed at saving jobs. Word is that the Coburn amendment has been "watered down" to make arts funding possible, says the Americans for the Arts spokeswoman.

Come back to Culture Monster to see how this story develops.

-- Mike Boehm

Image: 1888 illustration from Edward Lawrence Thayer's poem "Casey at the Bat" / Los Angeles Times file image.


 
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