Arts face tough competition in donations

Posted on: March 19, 2009

In Wednesday’s (3/18) Wall Street Journal, Mike Spector writes, “Museums, theaters and operas, already reeling from the recession, are having a tough time attracting support amid perceptions that vital services like soup kitchens and homeless shelters should receive funds first. … About 10,000 arts organizations, or 10% of the U.S. total, are at risk of folding, according to Americans for the Arts, a nonprofit lobbying group in Washington, D.C. The Minnesota Museum of American Art in St. Paul closed indefinitely in January. The museum had existed in various forms since 1927. One reason for the struggles: Some people ‘think of arts as an unnecessary frill,’ and discount arts groups’ economic and educational contributions to society, says Lester Salamon, director of the Center for Civil Society Studies at Johns Hopkins University. … Arts groups garner about 40% of their income—far more than other nonprofits—from private donations, Mr. Salamon says. But private donors have cut back, and they tend to shift their money to human-services outfits during recessions, he says.… In their bid to rally support, arts leaders have focused most on economic arguments. Cultural institutions generate $166.2 billion in annual economic activity through spending by organizations and consumers patronizing their events, says Americans for the Arts.”
Posted March 19, 2009