As a mid-career artist working in photography, I’ve been enormously honored to have received several state and county grants partially funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, and, early in my career, an individual Visual Artist Fellowship directly from the NEA. As the Endowment’s budgetary fate is decided, I hope Congress will consider the following:
1) Every cent of grant money I received has been returned to the economy, supporting tax-paying businesses. I buy objects to photograph, production materials, large-format printing services, framing supplies and services, and van rental for transporting large works to and from exhibition venues. When I sell artwork, it is taxed as income.
2) Like most artists who receive funding, I am not anywhere near the “blue chip” level of sales; I work another job in order to practice my art. The grants I have received provided direct support for my work.
3) I have often exhibited my art at NEA-supported, non-commercial state and county venues, almost always without any sort of remuneration; the public benefits from experiencing the art, usually for free, while I bear the cost of creating, framing, transporting and insuring it. Grant money helps offset these costs.
4) By supporting art production and exhibition spaces, the NEA enables community members — including school groups and senior citizens — to experience original art that otherwise might never be shown in their locality.
5) The relatively small cost of the NEA is more than outweighed by the educational and personal enrichment such experiences provide.