Good news? US arts giving is up by 9.4 percent

The good news: donations to culture and the arts were up 9.4% in 2014, to a breath-taking $17.2 billion.

The bad news: Arts and culture came in seventh in the list of recipients of charitable donations.

The #1 cause for donations was, as ever, organised religion …. with $114.9 billion.

avery fisher hall

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  • The term “arts and culture” is very wide in these studies. It can include boy scouts, zoos, swimming pools, parks, tourist info centers, numerous forms of the humanities, etc.. At a wild guess, I would say that less than half actually goes to the fine arts. It’s seems strange that they do not have a specific category for the arts.

    • If we optimistically calculated that half of the sum for “arts and culture” went to the arts, that would be $8.5 billion, which comes to $26 per capita.

      In the USA, the federal government, states and localities appropriated a combined $1.14 billion to the arts in FY2013, for a total per capita investment of $3.60. See:

      http://www.giarts.org/article/public-funding-arts-2013-update

      Private and public funding in the USA for the arts thus comes to about $30 per capita.

      By comparison Austria spends $324 per capita, Denmark $374, Norway $667, Germany $146, Italy $147, and Netherlands $333. The average for these countries is $331 – 11 times higher than American spending, both public and private.

      For documentation of the European funding see:

      http://www.culturalpolicies.net/web/statistics-funding.php?aid=118&cid=80&lid=en

    • If we optimistically calculated that half of the sum for “arts and culture” went to the arts, that would be $8.5 billion, which comes to $26 per capita.

      In the USA, the federal government, states and localities appropriated a combined $1.14 billion to the arts in FY2013, for a total per capita investment of $3.60.

      Private and public funding in the USA for the arts thus comes to about $30 per capita.
      By comparison Austria spends $324 per capita, Denmark $374, Norway $667, Germany $146, Italy $147, and Netherlands $333. The average for these countries is $331. That’s 11 times higher than American spending, both public and private.

      (A version of this post with urls for documentation of the numbers hasn’t yet appeared due to this site’s spam blocker.)

      • And a split between “visual arts,” i.e. museums, and “performing arts” would likely halve the number again for classical music and opera.

  • I’m sorry. With welfare cuts, under and unemployment at record highs and a rapidly increasing wealth gap, is it really that important what happens to an underfunded elitist institution, like a symphony orchestra? How representative of American society is it anyway? Most of the conductors are white and male, most of the highest paid orchestras are white and male, most of the music is written by white men. I’m sick of trying to defend an industry which is this ridiculously archaic and horrendously conservative, but still desperately needs funding from the state for it’s future existence. I’m also tired of hearing the same hackneyed interpretations of the same old repertoire, of which standards reached their apex in the 1960’s and 70’s anyway. The whole thing is becoming a drain on society, it’s increasingly out of step with the language of most people under 45 and is in desperate need, but hesitant of, radical reform for it to keep any relevance or dignity in the future. (I apologise about the rant)

    • Fortunately, not everyone feels this way or uses such irrelevant race and gender categories to support their ridicule. I oppose, and always will, the ‘levelers’ who with spurious logic and malevolent intent impugn and destroy the finer achievements of our culture.

    • By your “logic” museums should close because the vast majority of art contained in them was done by white painters. Libraries should also close because the majority of volumes (Shakespeare among them) are by white authors. After all, the current hip-hop and rock generation doesn’t need any of this old-fashioned “stuff” to be relevant and literate. WOW!

  • Strange? In the USA? I’m amazed it is as high as seventh. Though I daresay it is ahead of food banks and the homeless, though well behind the various diseases and perhaps even specific health institutes and of course college football teams.

    “When I hear the word culture I reach for my gun” has more sinister origins, but if there is a country in this day and age to which it is applicable, I suspect the good old US of A is it.

  • If you actually live in the US, this is good news. Save your “wild guess” for the national lottery, please…

  • Today, Karin Hendrickson (conducting the Nashville Symphony at a Jackie Evancho concert) made an appeal for arts funding, describing how she was supported as a young artist.
    A similar appeal which was made by the symphony organization after intermission.

    Hopefully such ongoing efforts at the coalface will help to raise support of the arts.

  • “Congress has funded NEA in FY 2015 again at a level of $146 million. Current funding amounts to just 45 cents per capita.” Pretty paltry, isn’t it?

    • Yes. The average for Austria, Denmark, Norway, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands is $331 which is 92 times higher than the federal, state, and municipal public funding in the USA combined. We thus have moderate levels of culture in a few financial centers where the wealthy live, but very little outside those areas.

  • When the US sent the Voyager spacecrafts into deep space where there is an infinitesimal chance that in tens of thousands of years they might arrive in a different star system and be discovered by another intelligent species, it was discussed what should be put as a descriptor of our civilization on the spacecraft. It was a golden record with lots of music, much of it classical.

    It is what defines us as mankind, that and science. It’s what instinctively is chosen if we want to present mankind in a favorable way. There was no bible, thora or quran on that spacecraft, there is nothing to be proud about when it comes to religion. Except the great art it inspired and helped to create, music, fine art, architecture…

    So whoever above called a symphony orchestra an “elitist institution” sadly demonstrates that he is not part of progressive mankind but part of a backward primitive tribe who just happens to walk upright.

  • Where I live, there is a very good and kind man who is a philanthropist. His munificence is appreciated by many people, whether because they received medical treatment in the wing of a hospital that he funded, or attended a classical concert that he helped subsidize. I do not begrudge the fact that he devotes more money to medicine than to classical music; instead, I am appreciative of both, and I laud him for it all.

  • Philanthropists in the US — and there have been and presumably still are many — might be able to donate more to the arts if the state provided anything resembling adequate health care for its citizenry, like all other civilised developed nations. As it is, if people want decent well-equipped hospitals or research into diseases that have afflicted their loved ones, they donate that way. (Doesn’t do much for the health care of the poor, but Americans would rather choose their charities than pay taxes from which all might benefit. They call this “freedom,” a word which in the wrong American mouths — too many of them — is an aggressive and offensive word, because it is just “Me”-ism).

    On the bright side: well-endowed medical facilities seem to help keep the wrinklies alive longer to sustain the orchestras and (mostly) operas in at least major cities! But for how long…

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