What will it take to make Congress act on the arts?

What will it take to make Congress act on the arts?


norman lebrecht

July 01, 2020

Charlotte Lee of Primo Artists has been lobbying tirelessly to get the US Congress to help musicians and music agencies that have been left without income for the past four months. It looks like the message is getting though, but it needs a further push.

Here’s what she’s saying right now:

Dear Friends,

I’d like to invite you to join me in a social-media trend that I am rolling out today about the urgent need to keep arts alive. It is part of the movement we are leading to raise awareness about the fact that the arts will be the last sector to return to business.

Most of the world does not understand the gravity of the situation we are dealing with — that COVID has had a disproportionate impact of devastation on the arts industry and that most of our colleagues and artists have completely lost their employment and livelihood because concerts are not resuming in full capacity before September 2021. That is, for many, 18 months of being shuttered and the reason why I started the PAMAC Performing Arts Managers and Agents Coalition, so we could work with all our 25 partner organizations across the broader industry to amplify each other’s voices about this vital issue.

We have been lobbying hard with Congress to urge them for legislative reform and they have told the Americans for the Arts they are receiving our letters. We are setting up calls with elected officials for our artists and other key figures to explain the plight of our industry and to urge them to take action. Although there is no guarantee they will pass another bill, we are told Congress will look at this next week. Once they take a vote, this would be the final relief package.

I invite you to post the below message on your channels and to help spread the word about this vital issue. The message is 6 words and 3 hashtags — see below — with a custom-designed graphic for our movement. We have a customized version for Twitter too, which you can find through the #artsinterrupted hashtag. Please post and help join our movement now.

… # # #




  • batonbaton says:

    Would be even better if the “message is getting through” (typo)

  • Dave says:

    I’m afraid a wholesale clean out of the Senate, House of Representatives and the Presidency are in order if you want a bail out of the Arts in the US.

    • Robert Roy says:

      Same goes for the UK political scene too, I’m afraid.

    • Brian says:

      I’m all for it!

    • Alexandra says:

      In addition to your prescription (which could take another generation), for faster fiscal relief I would propose that her agency simply apply to every possible corporate grant source in the U.S. Many banks, for example, give $$$ to the arts.

    • CA says:

      What I get so tired of hearing time & again is how the economic impact of the arts is (by one recently study I read which I do not now recall the source of) greater than that of the sports industry, and also of the fact that arts jobs (performers, managers etc) are not regarded as legit jobs by many. Yet how many of our government officials have their children participate in the arts and study music, dance, etc at a young age, even longer than that? That we cannot collectively seem to stand behind culture as a nation is, in my view, a disservice to our collective goal (or what should be a collective goal) to become better as human beings, and to create better communities for ourselves. Absent the arts and the creative sector/process, we would have virtually no outlet for human expression. So do we then just become zombies of the state, and warriors in the streets? Is that what we want?

      • lunch says:

        I have to disagree with you on arts making better human beings. Every art enterprise is full of corruption, unfair competition, favoritism, sexual harassment, money laundry and fraud. You can find it in any art organization that hides behind social virtues: opera companies, music competitions, orchestras etc etc etc. No way taxpayers should pay for that !

        • brunch says:


          Look at the overly represented Left across the Arts spectrum.

          They are so negative and now unemployed with no prospects. Makes for only angry people with no cohesion.

        • Henry williams says:

          When an employee is made redundant . The state do not bail them out.
          They may receive a little unemployment benefit. Also many people have no
          Interest in the arts.

  • Philanthropists not the Government says:

    It’s a horrible situation for both artists and their representatives not to mention the artistic institutions themselves. The reality is that the US does not fund the arts from a federal level. It is a philanthropic enterprise and should be left as such. The NEA amounts to less than the MET Opera’s annual budget. Therefore, the best that this noble effort can expect is additional PPP support. Making the case for a bailout for for-profit companies is this sector is a great thought but will not amount to anything. Broadway and Hollywood are facing the same realities as well as the restaurant industry.

    • Jaspers John says:

      Philanthropists stopped doing their job decades ago. In the 1970s, easily the peak years for the arts, the major foundations were all still funding classical music, as well as the NEA. Then they stopped. Then the performance “artists” ruined the NEA. It was the NEA that launched YoYo Ma’s career. That’s gone, Affiliate Artists is gone, even Community Concerts is largely gone, all the ladders one could once climb to a concert career.

  • LydiaWahlberg says:

    Never as long as we have men like Trump and his ilk in office. Perhaps his good friend Vladimir could persuade him to support The National Endowment For the Arts.

    • #LEFT=HATE says:

      You certainly don’t see the Democrats getting off their asses and doing anything to help.

      The Left is too entitled and deranged to help anyone that doesn’t actively hate their President.

      Still waiting for Pelosi, Newsome, Schumer, Cuomo and the lot support at least the musicians in their OWN STATES!!

      In NY it’s: “Holocaust the Musical” as Cuomo continues to show his mental instability as opposed to empowering New Yorkers through either direct financial assistance for free-agents or getting them back to work. NY is BROKE anyway so what difference at this point does it make?!?!?!

    • Waiting...... says:

      After everything Obama did for the Arts in his 8 years?

      It seems odd that all of the legislation and money both Barack and Michelle injected into the Arts couldn’t keep these Symphony, Dance, Operatic and other institutions in strong financial health.

      In only 3 or so months these bastions of education went from authorities with more than plenty of savings to penitent reprobates…paupers.

      Why? Where did all of their money go?

      Perhaps the Obamas are waiting to swoop in with their new found wealth to prop up the Arts so they can show off to Donald??

      How about the Biden’s wealth to donate??

      And Pelosi; she’s LOADED!

      And the Clintons with their foundation too!!!

      Oh well, somebody of education and means will come through on the Left..

  • Scott says:

    Not even the slightest chance with the current administration.

  • John says:

    I hate to be snarky but this is one of the major risks of being a musician. Classical musicians/artists in the US knowingly went into a declining field and a field that outside of a select minority, were not doing well before the crisis, let alone during covid times. You went into the music business knowing that even during good times people rarely cared about the arts and depended heavily on donations.

    Everyone is looking for the government to give them a bailout. Airlines, factories, and now musicians. If you follow your dreams, you must live with the consequences of that, good or bad.

    • Bill says:

      Your comment is snarky. The reason why musicians can’t work right now has nothing to do with any perceived or real decline in the arts. It’s simply a matter of a highly contagious disease which makes performing and attending concerts impossible at the moment.

      And for the record: Any art worth anything has always had to rely on government or institutional support in one way or the other.

      Airlines and other industries have gotten pretty big bailouts; the government can spare a paltry fraction of that to support the arts.

      What I don’t get is why people like you frequent a website dedicated to the arts to rail against support for artists. Go read Sports illustrated if it bothers you so much.

    • Jaspers John says:

      That is utter crap. Students don’t know such things. They only know what they have to do with their lives. It is only by the time they graduate they may realize they have to do something else. But they would study music anyway. Even if you do other things, it’s an excellent education. The economic aspects of playing fluctuate, and some people are advantaged, where others are not. No one assumes they will fail, except maybe an Oscar Levant, who was quite a success.

  • Jack says:

    Since so many cities in the U.S. are now cutting police budgets, perhaps some of that money can be redirected to the performing arts.

    Unfortunately, arts organizations will have to spend more money on private security to lessen the possibility of performers being mugged on their way to and from the venue.

  • nlunch says:

    Art organizations that depend on public money have always been the epicenter of corruption, family business and favoritism. They need to learn how to fit in the modern market instead of begging for money from the government and hide behind political slogans.

  • Robert Freeman says:

    Certainly, the current administration in Washington is no help to the arts. I believe we can expect all sorts of improvements with the NEXT administration, should we succeed in surviving into a next administration. But the main problem is not politics. It is that the American people have become accustomed to the idea that the arts ought be supported by rich philanthropists only. Which means that the politicians can safely ignore the arts as a political issue. Our only means forward, I believe, is to teach, perform, and persuade with integrity and passion the arts each of us represents. In a book that I hope to publish later this year I hope to persuade the right people to join together in founding a private foundation that sponsors the creation of new and exciting works of art for children, adolescents, and adults that are based on the up- and downsides of American history. Stay tuned.

    • Mike Schachter says:

      What improvements? These are people who know nothing of classical music and care less. Not as cool as pulling down statues, often of the wrong people

  • Jaspers John says:

    One of the problems with classical music in this country is that we have no infrastructure. We have no national organization of musicians. The closest we have to that is the American Federation of Musicians, which is probably less than five percent in membership of all musicians. Because we have no single organization, we have no voice. We have many membership organizations, and niche organizations. Only some are organized together at all. And so we have several voices, not necessarily coordinated, or representative. If we had a national classical music magazine, its readership could at least provide an identifiable population. In Philadelphia alone, the Philadelphia Classical Musicians Group in Facebook has over a thousand members, few of whom belong to the union, and nearly all of whom are under 35. When you start counting music teachers, solo performers, church musicians, singers, you have a very large population, plus students. It is going unserved. And so, Congress, no government truly takes notice. When the economic contribution of the arts is measured, it virtually always excludes individuals. It only measures organizations. The solution is to have, in part, ONE national organization for ALL musicians, to represent all, democratically, without commercial interests, without ties.

    • It’s a good thing says:

      The Arts are clearly full of too many Democrats!

      Diversity is long needed.

      With their financial vulnerabilities on full display it will be FORCED on them.

  • Jaspers John says:

    25 partner organizations. That’s the problem, too many with too little impact, too little input, too few members.

  • Sharon says:

    With reference to the US, I think that people are forgetting that we are in a federal system. Constitutionally the arts are not considered a responsibility of the federal government, although there are some institutions considered national and media sometimes takes these institutions’ work nationally.

    The way the feds normally fund any initiatives of any type that are otherwise considered state responsibilities is through giving a small amount of money to the institutions themselves or through states with many conditions that the states must follow if they want to voluntarily receive this money. It usually requires some sort of a match with state funds.

    States are refusing to accept federal funds for health care for poor people if it involves spending the states’ own monies ; do you think these states will accept money to which they have to add their own funds for the arts? Classical arts, with the exception of a few major cities, are seen as economic money losers in spite of the employment they may generate.

    In spite of the fact that the Clinton and Obama administrations paid some lip service to the arts, the last time that the arts, especially classical arts, were taken seriously was during the Kennedy administration more than 50 years ago. Kennedy was able to get a lot of funding to open the Kennedy Center because at the time Congress wanted to show that we could compete in the arts with the Russians.