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Pennsylvania Primary Primer and Arts Voter’s Guide

The Theater Alliance listserv has been inundated of late with rants about race, abortion, power, a Hillary/mommy complex, impassioned debate (to put it kindly) covering just about every aspect of this political open season except its impact on the arts. So before you step into the voting booth on April 22 and help decide for the country who you’ll be electing, Digg this entry, send a link to your friends, print it out, and make sure you support a candidate who supports the arts. 

I’ll begin with Barack and Hillary, since they’re the most similar. In case you’re wondering, I’m a registered Democrat, but veer weekly from one candidate to the other. Both have their official arts platforms up on their websites, but if you’re not up for slogging through those, here’s a quick summary of where they converge and diverge.

Arts Education

  • Obama and Clinton both favor the U.S. Department of Education’s (DoE) Arts Education Model Development and Dissemination Grants. This program gives grants to school districts for teaming up with nonprofit arts organizations. Obama says he will “increase” its funding, and Clinton says she will “double the number of students served.” 
  • While Obama says he will “publicly champion arts education,” Clinton says she will end No Child Left Behind, as it diverts money from arts education, and will “provide incentives to schools to offer arts programs.” A nice thought, since currently their only federal incentives are to pass standardized tests or else.
  • For teachers, Clinton supports the DoE’s Professional Development for Arts Educators program, which offers teacher training and enrichment. Obama plans to launch an “Artist Corps” of “young artists trained to work in low-income schools and their communities.” He does not say whether this corps will be composed of volunteers or paid workers, or how they will work with the teachers already in place. 
  • In addition, Clinton wants to launch the “Putting Arts in Reach Initiative,” a program to help schools acquire equipment used in arts programs: art supplies, musical instruments, etc.

National Endowments for Arts and Humanities

  • Both candidates want to increase funding for the NEA. Hallelujah. Funding has increased under Bush, but not anywhere near Clinton-era levels.
  • In addition, Clinton vows to support increased funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Arts Professionals

  • Both candidates are banking on their universal health care plans to take care of artists, but Clinton’s goes a step farther, building in a refundable tax credit to keep premiums at a specific percentage of income, and offering a 401(k) “with a generous federal match” for the self-employed or others whose employers don’t offer a retirement plan.
  • Both candidates vow to streamline the visa process for foreign artists looking to enter the U.S. Good news for Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse, I guess, but stellar news for all those Festival performers and organizers bound annually by reams of red tape.
  • Both plan to expand public-private partnerships that promote “cultural diplomacy,” by sending American artists overseas and bring foreign artists to the U.S.
  • Both support the Artist-Museum Partnership Act, which Clinton co-sponsored. Currently, artists who donate their work to cultural institutions are only able to deduct the costs of materials; this act allows them to also deduct its fair market value. Niiiice. 
  • Again, Clinton goes one step farther, promising to support programs that create live/work spaces for artists (again, niiiice…), and initiatives that “help artists promote and sell their work.” Though these promises sound vague, she cites a few forward-thinking examples on her website that she’s actually had a hand in creating.

This week, it looks like Hillary for me. Obama’s on the right track, but Clinton’s far more specific in her plans. Shen’s got the stats, the record, and New York state, which–when it comes to the arts–is no slouch… 

Tomorrow: John McCain and arts funding.






One Response

  1. […] of course, we have the issue of humanism vs. militarism. Please visit my Pennsylvania Primary Arts Voters Guide alongside my analysis of John McCain’s position on the arts just so you’ll know what […]

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