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April 24, 2013

Oh When the Money Comes Marching In: NEA Grants to Vermont

DollarsArt and numbers don't always go together, especially art and numbers with dollar signs in front of them. Unless you're, say, the Vermont Arts Council or the National Endowment for the Arts, and then you think about art and dollars rather a lot.

And that's why the VAC was pleased to point out this week that the NEA is sending $252,000 in Art Works grants collectively to nine arts entities in Vermont. And they are — imagine drum roll here — Burlington City Arts, the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, Brattleboro's Vermont Performance Lab, Piper's Gathering (yup, money for bagpipers), Sandglass Theater, the Shelburne Museum, Vermont Folklife Center, Vermont Symphony Orchestra and the Windham Regional Commission (not sure what's arty about this last one, but anyone working on disaster prevention and relief certainly deserves an award).

A quarter-mill is not a lot of money, really, especially when divvied up nine ways. If that pot were distributed equally — which it isn't — each Vermont recipient would get just $26,000. Compare that with the cost of, for example, the F-35: $207.6 million each, according to the Pentagon's FY2012 budget.

Since this is an arts blog and not a political one, let's consider some cultural crumbs, financially speaking, instead:

• The NEA is giving out $26.3 million this year. Here's what it says about where the money is going:

"These grants support exemplary projects in thirteen artistic disciplines and fields: arts education, dance, design, folk and traditional arts, literature, local arts agencies, media arts, museums, music, opera, presenting, theater and musical theater, and visual arts."

• Vermont's share is less than 1/100th of that total. 

• The population of Vermont is 626,011, or was as of 2012. If our share of the NEA grants was split equally among all Vermonters — which it isn't — we would each get about 40 cents. Not enough for postage on a thank-you letter.

• If the NEA's Art Works grants were split equally among every citizen of the entire United States, however, each citizen would get about 8 cents. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why we have to pay for our theater tickets, violin lessons and art classes.

• The VAC's state appropriation for FY2013 is $507,607 — as it has been for, oh, 21 years. The council is asking the Vermont legislature to double that for next year.

• So far, the governor's proposed appropriation for FY2014 is $717,607 (which is roughly the amount the VAC gets from the NEA, its only other funding source).

• The House Appropriations Committee has advised $607,607, which has lovely symmetry but is a whole lot less than the gov's recommendation.

• The corollary committee in the Senate is still mulling it over.

If you haven't yet seen the VAC's cool video explaining all this, you could do it now, here.

Some mathematical type may find fault in my numbers above, but perhaps we could all agree with this equation: art x funding = good.

Dollars above courtesy of my wallet.

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