GOVERNMENT AND THE ARTS
November 14, 1980
C. David Silletto
During the Great Depression, artists and musicians came to perform at
the grade school that I was then attending. These artists were introduced as
part of a WorksProgress Administration ("WPA") program and, even at my then
tender age, I understood that this was educational entertainment being provided
by some sort of a federal government program. What I didn't understand then
and, in fact, didn't learn until I did the research for this paper, was that
this was the first direct allocation of government resources to the arts in
the history of our country. That WPA program, basically designed as an
attack on the unemployment problems of the Thirties, was the opening wedge of
a direct involvement of the government in the arts that now involves hundreds
of millions of dollars each year.
Our discussion today will begin with the history of the involvement
of government in the arts activities of this country. While our primary
etphasis will be on direct involvement, meaning the allocation and disbursement of government funds, we should at least acknowledge the indirect support
of the arts by government through tax relief. This has been an integral part
of the society and economy of our country virtually from its inception.
Based on data of the mid-1970's, it has been estimated that the
property tax relief granted to non-profit arts organizations amounts to
approximately $150 million per year. In addition, the income tax advantages
offered to the arts has been conservatively estimated to cost the government
$400 million per year and could amount to as much as twice that figure.
Members of the Quest Club authorize the Allen County Public Library to digitize and publish past, present and future Quest Club papers for dissemination on the Allen County Public Library website (Board of Directors of Quest Club, Inc., Resolution of May 2010).