January 14th, 2009

Ryan Brown, “Sunset over the Valley,” Oil

I would love to see Obama’s new administration follow the advice of France’s President, Nicolas Sarkozy. In France, beginning this week, all young people 25 or under will now have free access to any public museum or monument such as the Louvre or the Chateau de Versailles. In the past, all citizens under 18 already enjoyed free tickets. On New Year’s day, Sarkozy made several announcements aimed at promoting French culture and the arts. In addition to the new access to under-25s, Sarkozy said he planned to create a new national history museum, with a boosted annual national heritage budget.

In President-elect Obama’s platform for the arts, he sites himself as a “Champion of the Arts,” and says, “Our nation’s creativity has filled the world’s libraries, museums, recital halls, movie houses, and marketplaces with works of genius. The arts embody the American spirit of self-definition.” His platform presents 9 main goals. Let’s hope that he follows through with them and continues to be a champion for arts education and American artists.

  • Reinvest in Arts Education: To remain competitive in the global economy, America needs to reinvigorate the kind of creativity and innovation that has made this country great. To do so, we must nourish our children’s creative skills. In addition to giving our children the science and math skills they need to compete in the new global context, we should also encourage the ability to think creatively that comes from a meaningful arts education.
  • Expand Public/Private Partnerships Between Schools and Arts Organizations: Barack Obama will increase resources for the U.S. Department of Education’s Arts Education Model Development and Dissemination Grants, which develop public/private partnerships between schools and arts organizations. Obama will also engage the foundation and corporate community to increase support for public/private partnerships.
  • Create an Artist Corps: Barack Obama supports the creation of an “Artists Corps” of young artists trained to work in low-income schools and their communities.
  • Publicly Champion the Importance of Arts Education: As president, Barack Obama will use the bully pulpit and the example he will set in the White House to promote the importance of arts and arts education in America.
  • Support Increased Funding for the NEA: Over the last 15 years, government funding for the National Endowment for the Arts has been slashed from $175 million annually in 1992 to $125 million today.
  • Promote Cultural Diplomacy: American artists, performers and thinkers – representing our values and ideals – can inspire people both at home and all over the world.
  • Attract Foreign Talent: The flipside to promoting American arts and culture abroad is welcoming members of the foreign arts community to America. Opening America’s doors to students and professional artists provides the kind of two-way cultural understanding that can break down the barriers that feed hatred and fear.
  • Provide Health Care to Artists: Finding affordable health coverage has often been one of the most vexing obstacles for artists and those in the creative community. Since many artists work independently or have nontraditional employment relationships, employer-based coverage is unavailable and individual policies are financially out of reach. Barack Obama’s plan will provide all Americans with quality, affordable health care. His plan includes the creation of a new public program that will allow individuals and small businesses to buy affordable health care similar to that available to federal employees.
  • Ensure Tax Fairness for Artists: Barack Obama supports the Artist-Museum Partnership Act, introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The Act amends the Internal Revenue Code to allow artists to deduct the fair market value of their work, rather than just the costs of the materials, when they make charitable contributions.

This last point is quite important for many working artists. Currently, artists can only “write-off” the materials that they used to create a work of art. This limits the number of artwork donations that are given to arts organizations and non-profits for the benefit. Let’s HOPE that Obama follows through with his platform and that we begin to see these changes in the arts, and soon.