On March 24th, a story about public funding of the arts across Europe had some dire statistics. Million-dollar shortfalls for funding of a music institution in Italy, 25-percent cuts in arts funding in the Netherlands, and, reportedly, “Portugal has abolished its Ministry of Culture.” The article names several affected countries and echos concerns raised by recent austerity measures in Greece. In contrast, a story on the 27th related how Brazil increasingly allocates funding for the arts. A Brazilian arts financing organization, Social Service of Commerce, reportedly has an annual budget of $600 million. Apparently, the organization derives funding from a percentage of payroll tax, so that the funding automatically increases with the expansion of the economy.
In the private sector, the United States has experienced contraction and expansion. Southern California provides an example. In 2009, the J. Paul Getty Trust implemented significant cuts in budgets across the Getty Research Institute, Museum, and Conservation Institute. At the same time, patron of contemporary art, Eli Broad, forged ahead with projects such as plans for construction of a museum for contemporary art in downtown Los Angeles. The fact the Getty has an endowment of 2-3 times the value of that of the Broad Foundation makes the contrast all the more striking.
It seems that emerging nations are setting an example for investment in the arts. Let’s hope that philanthropy follows Broad’s thinking to set an example for public funding.
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