Thursday, June 1, 2023

A person sits in front of a blue background and US flag. They have curly dark brown hair and are smiling directly at the camera. They are dressed in a red suit jacket with pins on both lapels.

On Thursday, May 11, 2023, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA-13) re-introduced the Equity Through the Arts and Humanities Act (H.R. 3239). The legislation would create a grant program through the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for nonprofit and public entities, including faith-based and community organizations, that serve and are led by people of color. The program aims to support arts and humanities projects that work to dismantle systemic racism through the arts and humanities. Americans for the Arts and Americans for the Arts Action Fund strongly support this legislation and will continue working with arts advocates to build support for this legislation among members of Congress.

Everyone should have access to the arts. The truth, however, is that many traditionally underserved populations have inequitable access to the arts in their communities. These inequities have consequences. A popular narrative is that the arts simply create entertainment value, but a deeper look shows the profound effect access to the arts has on those most impacted by the justice system, children, veterans, low-income communities, and self-designated non-artists. Concentrated cultural districts are associated with reduced poverty without neighborhood displacement, improved child welfare, and lower morbidity.

Last year’s version of this legislation was largely responsible for the inclusion of instructions in the FY2023 appropriations package that address equity in the NEA grantmaking process in the FY2023 appropriations package. This coincides with recent efforts by both the NEA and NEH to address equity both internally within their respective agencies as well as through their support of the arts community.

“Access to the arts in our communities, especially in low-income, rural and native areas, can offer life-affirming and often life-saving opportunities for youth that can lead to better grades, higher graduation rates, and lower crime and violence, help counter solitude, build community, and foster cultural understanding within communities,” said Americans for the Arts President and CEO Nolen V. Bivens. “The arts also demonstrate a positive role in healing physical and mental injuries, particularly for service members and veterans. The arts and culture must be available to all, and steps to ensure equitable access will only help make our world a better place."