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UPDATE: Arts Advocacy Season 2016

A look at the current city, state, and federal issues

Spring means advocacy season for the arts, as legislators debate city and state budgets that will impact arts education, arts in recreation, grant funding and more. Nationally, pro-artist revenue and economic development policies are being discussed in congressional committees along with a possible increase in funding for the NEA.


Philadelphia's budget process is in full swing, with City Council members hearing testimony from Mayor Jim Kenney's staff, the Managing Director's office, and other city leadership. Budget hearings cover everything from utilities to green space and will continue through May. 

In his 2017 budget proposal, Kenney, along with Managing Director Michael DiBerardinis, recommended maintaining the budget of the Mayor's Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, which includes level funding for the Philadelphia Cultural Fund of $3.14 million. 

Also included in the budget process are projects that Kenney has proposed paying for through a Sugary Beverage Tax: quality pre-K, community schools, rebuilding community infrastructure, improving energy efficiency, and partial pension coverage. The soda tax, as it's currently proposed, will be levied on beverages with added sugar at 3 cents per ounce. 

All Council hearings are open to the public, and general public testimony on the budget is scheduled for 5 p.m. on April 19, May 4, and May 11.  Neighborhood budget hearings will be held at the following locations:

Tuesday, April 12, 2016 | 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. 
141 E. Hunting Park Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19124

Tuesday, May 3, 2016 | 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. 
Community College – Northwest Campus
1300 W Godfrey Avenue, Room 216
Philadelphia, PA. 19141


Over the Easter weekend, Governor Tom Wolf allowed one supplemental budget to become law by not signing or vetoing it within ten days of receiving it. This opened up an additional $6.6 billion in funding for infrastructure, education, and more. (You can find more information on the previously released funds on our GroundSwell blog.)

Wolf did take action on one bill, however, vetoing the "fiscal code" that would provide instructions on how that money should be spent throughout the state. While this could allow legislators to continue negotiating how to allocate money, it's more likely that the issues the Administration and party leaders faced during the more than 200 days without a budget will be moved to the upcoming FY16-17 budget. 

The temporary budget, signed by Wolf right before the end of 2015, included a $1 million increase in arts funding through the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

State Arts Advocacy Day 2016 is May 17. Follow GroundSwell for updates and opportunities. 

Washington, DC

During the Congressional Kick-Off of Arts Advocacy Day (March 8), Senator Tom Udall (NM-D) introduced his bill to support the development of the creative economy through jobs and arts businesses. The CREATE Act (Comprehensive Resources for Entrepreneurs in the Arts to Transform the Economy) will help artists and creative entrepreneurs better access federal programs and resources.

Members of Congress were also asked to: support a budget of $155 million for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in 2017; appropriate $30 million for the Assistance for Arts Education (AAE) programs and explicitly name art as a core curriculum compnent as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA); and enact the Artist-Museum Partnership Act, which allows artists to claim the fair market value of their work when it's donated to a charitable institution.

Americans for the Arts' Arts Action Fund provides opportunities to take action as an arts advocate through their online portal, which you can find here