The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies has released its report on funding for the arts by state. It arrives at its figures by taking the appropriation for the arts from each state’s budget and then dividing that by the number of people living in that state. Ranked number 1 is Washington, DC, with an impressive $23.98 per person. This is hardly surprising given the number of national museums, cultural institutions, music halls, theatres and national monuments that are located in Washington, DC. At the bottom is Georgia, which spends a sad $.06 per person.
Also at the bottom was my own state of New Hampshire at $.0.30 per person. Sadly, I’m not surprised by this as New Hampshire frequently ranks at the bottom for funding all sorts of things (and at the top for the most expensive state schools–because they have little funding from the state!). You can view the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies’ map of all 50 states and arts funding here.
The Art Newspaper had an interesting review of the figures, as well as a convenient ranking of the top ten best and worst states for arts funding. It also compares state budgets to those of the US government and federally funded organizations, such as the National Endowment for the Arts.
I fear that in the next several years these numbers, as low as some of them already are, are going to drop, as states and the federal government become obsessed with STEM based programs and the continuing propaganda that there are no jobs in the arts. This is not to say that STEM programs do not have value–they do. However, not everyone is cut out for or wants a STEM job. I did quite well in my science classes in school and college, but I had no interest in a STEM field. (When I was a senior in high school, my teacher asked me to consider a career in electrical engineering!) We do a serious disservice to the creative members of our society by pushing everyone into a STEM program. We do a serious disservice to American culture. Our founding fathers recognized the importance of both science and the arts by protecting both in the Constitution. They recognized that the United States needed culture by creating the Library of Congress. There is far more to life than just technology and how neat our latest gadget is. Our cultural achievements are equally important as our scientific ones, and should be treated accordingly.