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Arts and the Economy:

The arts have always played an important role in America and now many arts experts are saying the arts should become an integral part of our economic recovery.

This subject was discussed by a panel of state and local experts on November 20 at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica prior to a Webinar telecast entitled an “Election Update and Arts in the New Federal Administration.”

Dale Franzen, the Executive Director of the Broad Stage, noted that, “[The] arts are non-political. It doesn’t matter what side you are on to be inspired by the arts.” She then stressed that the building of the Santa Monica Performing Arts Center, which the Broad Stage is a part of, is an “example of when people came together to support the arts.”

Malissa Feruzzi Shriver, Vice-President of the California Arts Council, pointed out that usually “legislators say we’ll fund the arts when the economy gets better” but in reality it should be the other way around because “when you fund the arts, the economy will get better.” She also noted that crime has been shown to decrease in areas where there is more funding for the arts.

The Chair of the California Arts Council, Michael Alexander, mentioned that when it comes to putting people back to work “you can do that quicker in the arts than in construction.”

Panelist Olga Garay, the City of Los Angeles’s Director of Cultural Affairs, emphasized the importance of citizens lobbying to make sure “the arts are a part of the agenda when decisions are made in public funding.”

Attention then turned to funding the arts at the federal level. President-Elect Barack Obama has shown that the arts will be a priority in his administration by appointing Bill Ivey to head his Arts and Culture transition team, the first time the arts have been included as part of a President’s transitional game plan.

Nina Ozlo Tuncelli, Chief Counsel for Americans for the Arts, noted in the Webinar that under President George Bush there were “minimal arts funding increases in the federal budget, or there were reductions.” She also mentioned that Ivey is “not ready to release the new administration’s ideas on the arts” but they will be based on the President-Elect’s campaign platform.

Obama’s platform includes expanding public/private arts partnerships between schools and arts organizations, creating an artist corps, increasing the National Endowment of the Arts, publicly championing arts education, promoting cultural diplomacy by improving the visa process, providing healthcare to artists, and ensuring tax fairness to artists.

More information can be found at artsforla.org/forum/obamas_policy.

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