While Mitt Romney has touted a budget plan that would eliminate funding for the NEA, PBS, and NPR, President Obama has planned a five percent increase in arts spending for his 2013 budget.
In February Obama announced his budget plans, which include 5.5 percent increases for the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities, pushing their subsidy up to $154 million. While this wouldn't fully mitigate the cuts to the NEA enacted under Obama last year, it reverses the trend of a declining NEA budget since its peak at $175 million in 1992, under George Bush Sr.
A blogger for nonprofit arts advocate Americans for the Arts points out that the biggest funding increase for an NEA program would go to the "Our Town Initiative," which would see its budget increase from $5 to 10 million. That program awards grants to small communities around the country, with populations less than 200,000. With the increase in funds, Our Town grants could be awarded to 115 communities in 2013.
This is a sharp turn from Obama's 2011-2012 budget, which cut NEA funding by 13.3 percent, reducing the organization's grantmaking abilities up to 24.6 percent. Indeed, his proposed budget for next year shows a renewed commitment to that agency.
The Smithsonian Institution, the world's largest museum and research complex, is also slated to benefit under an Obama administration. Under the President's new plan, the Institution would receive a 3.7 percent funding boost, as well as $85 million reserved in capital expenses for the construction of a National Museum of African American History and Culture. The plan would, however, necessitate funding cuts from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Obama is also proposing an infusion into arts education in under-served neighborhoods. Acting on data that suggests children with higher exposure to the arts perform better in school, his "Turnaround Arts" program picked eight schools across the country to bolster with new supplies, educator training, instruments and arts curricula. The program made headlines when Obama enlisted Hollywood figures to promote it, roping in Kerry Washington, Forest Whitaker, Sarah Jessica Parker, and other known entities to help with fundraising, among other duties.
During a speech Obama made at the 2011 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities ceremony, he addressed a room of artists and indicated a promise of support:
"The arts and the humanities do not just reflect America. They shape America," he said. "And as long as I am President, I look forward to making sure they are a priority for this country."
As far as his personal art tastes go, Obama's are a fairly open book. The L Magazine recently ran a feature detailing his personal collection, and artistic endeavors. These include a poem he wrote for his undergraduate literary journal, amidst works by American artists of note.
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