Public arts funding has been drying up for more than a decade, and the current economic downturn has threatened even greater funding cuts for artists and arts programs. But help is on the way.

After much debate in Congress, The National Endowment for the Arts, the nation's largest funder of the arts, received a total of $50 million from the stimulus bill. (This is on top of the $155 million that the NEA will receive from the recently passed omnibus spending bill.)

The NEA's funding was almost removed from the stimulus bill, with some in Congress arguing that the money should be used for rebuilding the nation's infrastructure. But the NEA and its supporters successfully argued that the arts play a vital role in the U.S. economy, citing that the arts employ nearly 6 million Americans, and pointed to a study done by the National Governors Association, which found that the arts "create jobs, attract investments, generate tax revenues, and stimulate local economies," as well as infusing other industries with new creative ideas.

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According to research done by the NEA, unemployment among artists is more than double the national average, and that "the job market for artists is unlikely to improve until long after the U.S. economy starts to recover." So this new funding couldn't have come at a better time for the struggling arts. They plan to use the $50 million in stimulus money to "fund projects that focus on the preservation of jobs in the arts," and they're distributing this funding quickly: Applications were due last week for state and regional arts organizations; nonprofit orgs have until April 2 to submit their applications.

Of course, job creation isn't the only benefit of the arts. Greater Good's latest issue focuses on their therapeutic, social, emotional, and cognitive benefits.

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