The public support of the arts should be on the same level as the economy, taxes, foreign diplomacy and any other campaign issue, according to speakers at the Iowa Arts Forum held Wednesday, Aug. 14 at the Clarinda Carnegie Arts Museum.
“We urge the next president of the United States to demonstrate national and global leadership in supporting the creative arts in America,” according to a campaign material provided by Nina Ozlu Tunclei, the executive director of Arts Action Fund.
The forum, cosponsored by the Iowa Arts Council, Americans for the Arts Action Fund and others, was held to learn and inform Iowa residents interested in the arts. Knowing Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucus on Feb. 3, those in attendance were encouraged to ask presidential candidates about their stance on the arts and strategy for federal funding of the arts.
The past months, and for the remainder of the year, Iowa will be a popular destination for candidates.
“How many times have you had anyone ask candidates their value on arts,” she Tunclei said. “Very little. It’s a public policy issue.”
Tunclei explained how the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment of the Humanities is currently funded by the federal government at $155 million a year. She urged how that should be increased to $327 million, $1 per capita.
Tunclei said the $155 million might sound like a large amount of funding, but that is for the entire country and those interested in having arts related programs and projects.
“How do you take care of an entire country,” she said about the $155 million amount. “Plus the states’ budgets, it might equal $300 million.”
According to information at the event, the state of Iowa budgeted slightly more than $1 million to the Iowa Arts Council for fiscal year 2020, plus $300,000 for the film office and $770,493 for arts-related grants.
She said the arts can be incorporated into common, campaign issues. Tunclei said the catch phrase in public education is the acronym STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and math. She wants an A included in that acronym so the A or arts make it read like STEAM.
“We urge the next president to strengthen equitable access to arts education through the Well-Rounded Education provisions of Every Student Succeeds Act and to expand STEM education to STEAM by including arts education,” she said.
There are no boundaries for more government support of the arts according to Leon Kuehner of the Iowa Cultural Coalition, another supporter of the event.
“Arts are nonpartisan,” he said.
Organizers also explained how the arts can be financially funded through tax credits.
“By enacting an across-the-board charitable tax deduction for all, not just higher wealth taxpayers who itemize their deductions, individuals at all income levels will be encouraged to make tax-deductible charitable donations to their favorite charities,” Tunclei said.
“Today is about you,” Veronica O’Hern, from the Iowa Arts Council told the approximately 40 people in attendance. Those in attendance broke into small groups and listed what they were the strengths and attractions of the arts in Southwest Iowa. Answers varied from the arts camps for children, artist in residency at Waubonsie State Park and community theater.
The Clarinda Carnegie Arts Museum opened in November 2014 and has had more than 70,000 visitors from 17 different countries. The privately-funded museum typically has two different exhibits each year.
“Some candidates need numbers,” Tunceli said about candidates and how they answer specific questions. “Some candidates need stories (from constituents).”
Organizers are hopeful what the audience learned during the event will influence them to approach candidates and their stance on the arts.
“Take your personal story and turn it into policy issue,” Tunceli said.