Spring update: arts funding news and next steps on key policy issues

May 5, 2017

Good news on arts funding as next round of budget debates begins

Congress voted this week to provide a $2 million increase each for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in the FY17 funding bill that was left unfinished from last year and was signed by the President today. The catch-all funding package also included full support for the arts education program at the U.S. Department of Education, and initial funds to support new well-rounded education grants to schools. This latest evidence of strong bipartisan support on the Hill for the cultural agencies is promising as Congress shifts its attention to the FY18 budget debates and shapes its response to the Trump Administration's proposal to eliminate funding for the NEA and NEH. Orchestras are meeting with policy leaders and making their voices heard in partnership with the broader arts community in support of federal funding for the arts and arts education.

Tax reform talks accelerate

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) said this week that he aims to get alignment among House and Senate leadership and the White House before moving ahead with a detailed tax reform plan. The League has joined other national nonprofit organizations in asking tax policy leaders on the Hill to protect and grow incentives for charitable giving as consideration of comprehensive tax reform moves forward. As described in a League policy alert last week, overarching changes to tax policy as proposed by the Trump Administration and some in Congress could dramatically alter the incentives for charitable giving that are a bedrock of support for orchestras and the broader nonprofit sector. As next steps on tax reform continue throughout the coming months, orchestras are letting members of Congress know how charitable giving supports their service to communities.

Gaps persist in latest arts education report card

The U.S. Department of Education released a report on April 25 detailing how much eighth-grade students know and are able to do in music and the visual arts. The Nation's Report Card: 2016 Arts charts some gains in student scores, but also reveals ongoing barriers to student achievement in the arts, with significant racial/ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic gaps. Comparing results to the prior Arts Report Card, lower percentages of students reported engaging in some music or visual arts activities outside of school in 2016 than in 2008. To help you make the most of this important conversation about the status of arts education, the League led an effort with other national arts and education groups to help create the Arts Education Partnership's toolkit, Maximizing the Nation's Arts Report Card. The toolkit includes links to the report, an FAQ, and suggested actions you can take to follow up on the results.

Next steps for violins, woodwinds, and protected species

The League continues to lead efforts to ensure that musicians can travel with the full array of instruments that contain materials subject to U.S. and international rules for protected species, as many musicians travel for the first time under new rules for rosewood implemented on January 2, 2017.  Our productive partnerships with conservation organizations, international music stakeholders, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are yielding improvements for traveling musicians and touring orchestras. In our first set of comments filed to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the new Administration, the League recommends next steps to take in domestic rulemaking and in upcoming international treaty negotiations. These negotiations would further streamline the permit process and ensure that international cultural activity is supported as conservation goals are also met.

NEA grant deadline and consultations at League Conference

Orchestras interested in applying for the second round of Art Works grant funding for FY18 should take note of the July 13 deadline. The League offers guidance specific to orchestras on our Tips for Your Application page in addition to the complete guidelines posted by the NEA online.
For orchestras attending the League's National Conference in Detroit this summer, NEA music specialist Anya Nykyforiak will be available for individual consultations to discuss a project that is currently receiving NEA support, or to talk through your plans to apply for an Art Works or Challenge America grant. Appointments are required, and they fill quickly, so please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to sign up for your free 20-minute slot.