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Should art be publicly funded?

In 1935, as part of the New Deal, the U.S. Government funded the Federal Art Project, which employed visual artists to create murals, paintings, sculpture, photography, and more to give relief to working artists affected by the Great Depression. President Johnson, in 1965, signed into law the establishment of the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency that offers support to "projects exhibiting artistic excellence." Some object to the government funding and supporting arts project financially, saying that spending toward the endowment is wasteful. But with the COVID-19 pandemic shutting the doors of museums, galleries, theaters, and arts spaces all over the world and with thousands of artists and performers without work, should governments use public tax dollars to support the arts?


A Biden Cabinet Secretary For Arts? Advocates Are Hopeful

Additional resources to think about

In France, Performing Artists Are Guaranteed Unemployment Income
In France, the government offers unemployment income for performing artists. But in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and shuttered theater and performance space, the Prime Minister has guaranteed that artists will still receive benefits.

Decline In School Arts Programs Follows Funding Drop, But Cuts Aren’t Equally Felt
In Oklahoma, public schools have lost significant funding, and the first programs usually on the chopping block are fine arts classes.

Funding the Arts | NEA
This 2016 infographic from The National Endowment for the Arts details how the agency has funded local, state, and nationwide art initiatives.

National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act Media Kit | LBJ Library
Explore clips, photos, and text from the signing ceremony that established the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities, two government agencies that advocate, fund, and support the arts in the United States.

Arts venues welcome COVID grant program to get through 2021
In this story from Marketplace, explore how venues like movie theaters and performing arts spaces are using federal grants to survive the pandemic, and how businesses are getting creative to keep their doors open.

1934: A New Deal for Artists
This virtual exhibit from the Smithsonian American Art Museum features works from artists created during the New Deal's Federal Arts Project.

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Who created this message?

  • What kind of “text” is it?
  • How similar or different is it to others of the same genre?
  • What are the various elements (building blocks) that make up the whole?


What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?

  • What do you notice (about the way the message is constructed)? 
  • What’s the emotional appeal?
  • What makes it seem “real?”
  • What's the emotional appeal? Persuasive devices used?

How might different people understand this message differently from me?

  • How many other interpretations could there be?
  • How could we hear about them?
  • How can you explain the different responses?

What lifestyles, values, and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message?

  • What type of person is the reader/watcher/listener invited to identify with?
  • What ideas or perspectives are left out?
  • How would you find what’s missing?
  • What judgments or statements are made about how we treat other people?


Why is this message being sent?

  • What's being sold in this message? What's being told? 
  • Who is served by or  benefits from the message
    – the public?
    – private interests?
    – individuals?
    – institutions?

5 Key Questions of Media Literacy used with permission from the Center for Media Literacy.
Copyright 2002-2021, Center for Media Literacy,


Should art be publicly funded?

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