Support of the Arts

August 11, 1978

Report Outline
New Sources of Cultural Support
Patterns of Support and Funding
Evidence of Government Interest
Special Focus

New Sources of Cultural Support

Financial Plight From Popularity of Arts

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. That's how the American artistic community may remember the 1970s. Support for the arts from both private and public sources has never been greater. Attendance at all cultural events is booming. Yet in the face of growing demand and support, many arts groups are deeply in debt and some have been forced to reduce or abandon their activities.

The financial plight of the arts reflects their built-in handicaps. The growing popularity of the arts means that cultural organizations must provide more services to the community. That, in turn, means more performers and staff, for arts and cultural organizations are “labor intensive.” Many of the arts require a costly environment — buildings, sets, costumes and supporting services. Box office receipts and attendance fees do not come close to covering the expense.

Much of the deficit traditionally has been filled by institutional support, particularly by private foundations. But a decline in this support has been detected. The Ford Foundation, for example, in recent years has reduced its contribution to the arts from $20 million annually to $4 million. The Rockefeller Foundation, which gave almost $3.5 million to 47 performing arts institutions in 1972, gave, in 1976, only $2 million to such institutions.

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