Arts & Cultural Policy Research Paper Starter

Arts & Cultural Policy

This article focuses on arts and cultural policy in the United States. It provides an analysis of the history and scope of arts and cultural policy in the United States. The varied and evolving roles of government arts agencies, such as the National Endowment for the Arts and state arts agencies, have been discussed. In addition, cultural indicators in arts and cultural policy, including macro cultural indicators, meso cultural indicators, and micro cultural indicators have been described along with the process of arts and cultural policy implementation at the national and state levels.

Keywords Arts & Cultural Policy; Cultural Indicators; Macro Cultural Indicators; Meso Cultural Indicators; Micro Cultural Indicators; National Endowment for the Arts (NEA); State Arts Agencies (SAA)

Business and Public Policy: Arts and Cultural Policy


The United States’ federal arts & cultural policy, as described by the U.S. National Foundation for the Arts and Humanities (NFAH), is developed and implemented to encourage a comprehensive national policy that supports humanities and the arts in the United States as well as institutions that conserve the culture and traditions of the United States. In the United States, arts and cultural policies are often incorporated into another policy context such as education or foreign policy. Art and cultural policies are distributed and subsumed into the efforts and agendas of over thirty different federal agencies (Wyszomirski, 1998).

Governments create arts and cultural policy for numerous reasons including the following:

  • To instill loyalty in their citizens
  • To support the agendas of social movements
  • To create international prominence and reputation
  • To strengthen communities
  • To build up struggling local economies

National governments increasingly partner with local governments and business stakeholders to build up arts and cultural industries in economically depressed regions. The American Arts Alliance (AAA) estimates that each dollar of National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) money invested in the arts provides a 20-fold return in contracts, services, and jobs in American society and economy. Arts and cultural industries in cities are closely related to and believed to attract creative class workers. Arts, cultural and new media industries are replacing traditional industrial sectors throughout the global economy (Miller, 2000).

In the United States, the federal government's annual budget for arts and cultural policies and initiatives is approximately $2 billion. This amount provides direct federal appropriations to the three main arts and cultural organizations (the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute for Museum and Library Services), the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Smithsonian, the Kennedy Center, arts programs in Justice, Education, Housing and Urban Development departments, and military bands. The annual budget for military bands often exceeds the National Endowment for the Arts' annual budget.

Federal arts and cultural policy during the twentieth century, as described in presidential arts and culture reports from 1953 to 1997, concerned issues such as public funding for the arts, commissioning and high artistic standards, arts and education, preserving cultural heritage, international cultural exchanges, framework of the federal cultural administration, role of private philanthropy, tax policy and the arts, arts and urban development, copyright, role of libraries and universities, and the effect of technology on the arts and culture (Strom & Wyszomirski, 2004).

Art and cultural policy in the United States has a complex history, serves multiple purposes, and has multiple and diverse stakeholders. The following sections will describe and analyze the history and scope of arts and cultural policy in the United States. This overview will serve as a foundation for later sections on the use of cultural indicators in arts and cultural policy making and the implementation of arts and cultural policy at national and state levels.

History of U.S. Arts

The relationship between the U.S. federal government and the arts began in the eighteenth century. The U.S. Constitution's First Amendment, which guaranteed freedom of speech, press, religion, and assembly, influenced the development and direction of early arts and cultural policies. The First Amendment prohibited the U.S. government from being connected or related to the production of meaning for its citizens. As a result of the First Amendment, the federal government did not engage, elevate, or discriminate within artistic or cultural areas (Miller, 2000).

The U.S. Constitution further complicated the relationship between the federal government and the arts by granting government some rights to oversee and be involved in copyright issues. Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to encourage the growth of science and other useful arts by obtaining, for a limited time, the exclusive right to the respective writings and discoveries for authors and inventors. The tension between the Constitutional directives, such as the First Amendment and Article 1, has created hundreds of years of tensions and multiple perspectives on the appropriate level of government involvement in the arts. The national government, academia, and society have debated questions such as: What is censorship? Who decides what aesthetics should receive government sponsorship? Ultimately, the Constitutional directives, as they are interpreted in the arts and culture areas, require the national government to be cautious and limited in artistic and cultural affairs (Wyszomirski, 1998).

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, there were numerous debates about the proper role of the government's oversight and involvement in arts and culture. For example, when President John Quincy Adams asked Congress for money in 1825 to start a national university, observatories, and related programs, critics accused him of attempting to foster a centralized national culture. Critics argued that arts and culture must be separate from the state. Throughout much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, foreign countries and governments viewed the United States as having no official public or private cultural position or standing. This rather critical of appraisal of the United States during this time did not take into account the federal government's efforts to adhere to the requirements of the First Amendment and Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution (Miller, 2000).

The United State's federal arts and cultural policies began in earnest in the twentieth century. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the federal government began to develop the system of museums (including the Smithsonian Institution, the Library of Congress, and the National Archives), created the Fine Arts Commission, and built the national monuments in Washington, D.C. (Wyzsomirski, 1998). The following events, initiatives, and programs represent significant moments in the evolution of arts and cultural policy in America (Miller, 2000):

  • Tax incentives: In 1917-1918, the United States became the first nation to permit tax deductions for gifts to nonprofit organizations. This system of tax incentives is, in part, responsible for the charitable contributions and philanthropy that created the collections of numerous arts and cultural museums.
  • National parks: In 1916, the National Park Service Act was passed to create, oversee, and conserve national parks, monuments, and reservations as well as the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein.
  • Works Progress Administration: In the 1930s, the federal government created the Works Progress Administration to provide jobs for artists, as well as others, during the Depression.
  • National Endowment for the Arts: In 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts was founded. In addition, during the 1960s, U.S. not-for-profit foundations, such as Carnegie, Ford, and Rockefeller, helped generate an infrastructure of artistic support for orchestras, dance, theatre, and opera companies.
  • Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA): In 1973, the CETA was passed and had an important influence on twentieth-century arts and cultural policy through its Artists-in-Residence program that provided income security to artists.

Modern arts and cultural policy is based on the national arts infrastructure created in the 1960s. The 1960s' economic and social environment was characterized by racial desegregation, Affirmative Action, growth of welfare programs, and increased environmental awareness. Federal and state governments were searching for help and solutions for many American cities suffering economically and socially from job loss and disinvestment by corporations. Federal arts funding, often...

(The entire section is 3971 words.)