Biden Pushes Record Aid For Culture To Recover From Pandemic Blow

America first and culture last. This equation was broken last Friday, when the White House launched its plan to increase cultural budgets in the absence of approval by Congress. The hostility to the arts and humanities that Trump maintained in his legislature ended in the inauguration of the Democratic president, who invited the poet Amanda Gorman and the singer Lady Gaga to perform in his welcoming ceremony.

With the investment plan for 2022, Joe Biden demonstrates, in a decisive year, his commitment to the recovery of US institutions, which have been badly damaged by the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The highest amount goes to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), with an increase of 33.5 million dollars, 20% more than that allocated in 2021. It is the highest figure it has received since its foundation in 1965. the agency dedicated to the care of museums among other occupations.


“President Biden’s budget represents a significant commitment to the arts and culture sector and reflects the continuing importance of arts organizations and cultural workers to the health and vitality of the country,” Ann Eilers said in a statement. president of the NEA. This increase will translate into the reinstatement of workers who had been fired from their institutions last year due to the crisis, as well as the creation of new cultural activities.

40% of the 201 million dollars will be used to award grants awarded by state agencies in all 50 states, and 60% to organizations and individuals who apply for their projects to be publicly funded. These grants will reward approaches that promote racial equity, racial justice, civil rights and equal opportunity, key issues in the Government of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, which promote the development of marginalized communities. They also include the rural areas of the country.

Despite the good news that this great economic help means for the culture sector, the expectations of having a direct line of communication with the president have not been fulfilled. The sector dreamed of an artistic representation within the White House that would elevate the importance of the creative economy, but, in the new cabinet, Biden has not included its own office for culture among the 15 executive departments that do have one and that work at European ministry mode.

Culture is also not among the priorities declared and published by the White House, despite having recognized in the campaign its importance for the recovery of the population after the pandemic. During the race for the presidency, Biden’s cultural advisers spoke of the need to create an agency that would bring together the interests that are currently dispersed in the NEA, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (NEH) and the Institute of Museums and Libraries


Megan Beyer, co-chair of the campaign’s Arts Policy Committee and former executive director of the Arts and Humanities Committee with Obama, compared the White House office of culture to that of Science and Technology. “For me, the arts are one more powerful interdisciplinary tool,” Beyer said at the time. Another of those responsible for that (frustrated) dream was Nina Ozlu Tunceli, senior adviser for public and government affairs and executive director of the Americans Action Fund for the Arts, which encouraged the development of policies that would integrate the arts in the federal effort for the new economy to overcome the pandemic.

In the rest of the agencies, the financial commitment is not as generous as in the NEA. The NEH will receive, in 2022, 177.5 million dollars, this represents an increase of ten million dollars (6% more). And the IMLS hardly grows 3.1%, from 257 to 265 million dollars. Cultural plans are much more modest than those for science and technology: $ 52 billion for the National Institutes of Health, an increase of 21% from 2021.

Laura Lott, president and executive director of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), communicated, shortly after the details of the new public financing were released, that it is the right way to alleviate the “devastating impact of COVID-19“in museums and their employees. Lott applauds the $ 2 million increase in grants to the Museum of African American History and Culture (opened by Biden himself as Vice President in 2016) and the $ 4 million increase for the Museo Nacional Latinoamericano. She is also relieved to see that Trump’s proposal to limit tax deductions to those who help these institutions has been erased from the map. The $ 4.5 million item dedicated to research, analysis and collection of cultural data.

The budget increase alleviates the threats that these agencies have suffered in the last four years: in 2017, Donald Trump became the first president to propose eliminating investment in culture, for being a symbol of wasteful generosity.

The NEA, for example, survived the threats thanks to support in Congress, which rejected Trump’s demolition budgets each year. In 2021, the NEA had a budget of $ 167.5 million, 0.0034% of federal spending. With the current budget increase, the percentage of investment in this agency hardly varies. At least, relations with the White House are no longer aggressive. Trump encouraged the rejection of any artist who was not explicitly loyal to his cause, which provoked a reaction contrary to what the former president expected in all public forums where art and its creators were present. He even dismantled the Committee on Arts and Humanities, which advises the president from the Ronald Reagan administration.



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