Commentary: Philly arts leaders urge support for NEA

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The Kimmel Center on Broad Street during the annual New Year's festivities.

Not all cultures have a unique word for art. What we, in this country, consider art is well woven into the fabric of many other countries and not an amenity to be removed with budget cuts.

Art has been a way to communicate beliefs and express ideas about our shared human experience throughout civilization and in every region of the world. As cultural documents, works of art provide important insights into humankind and help us understand and process the issues we faced in the past, in our present, and in our future.

Across our cultural campus at the Kimmel Center, we draw more than 1 million people. We are the largest performing arts center in the region and the second-largest performing arts center in the country. With eight resident companies and a panoply of presenting partners, the arts across our campus have moved to tears and given sheer joy to every walk of life, at all stages of life.

Threats to cut funding for the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) are a direct threat to our continued success, to our communities, to our great city, and to our nation. Arts spark innovation. Arts promote prosperity, improve academic performance for students, and strengthen the economy - driving tourism, business, and jobs.

To sustain a robust cultural infrastructure, Philadelphia should be proud and protective of our thriving arts scene; the presence of strong cultural institutions and artist networks is vital to the health of a city. Arts and culture contribute to the U.S. economy at the astonishing level of $704.2 billion each year, yet current funding for the NEA amounts to a mere 46 cents per capita.

The crown jewel of what makes America great is the arts and cultural contribution we give to the world; our unique public-private support system sustains this national export. Government helps this through early funding of startup projects and by giving organizations opportunities to increase their capacity and achieve greater impact. This is the legacy of the NEA.

For 52 years, the NEA has provided leadership in the public arts arena but now faces an uncertain future as its federal funding is potentially eliminated. The NEA is a catalyst for our creative existence and economy - as their support is a stamp of approval, often legitimizing innovative programs and leveraging further support. On average, every dollar the NEA contributes to arts organizations leads to nine additional dollars being donated from other sources. Great return on investments like this make for an even greater America.

The arts are fundamental to our humanity, to our great city, and to our great nation. They inspire us to find goodness, understanding, and beauty. The arts help us express our values and bridge divides across ethnicity, religion, and race. There is no greater need than now for the arts and no better way to make our country even better.

To preserve the human and economic benefits of the arts, I am joined in urging continued federal support for the NEA by Allison Vulgamore, president and CEO, of the Philadelphia Orchestra; Frank Giordano, president and CEO of the the Philly Pops; David B. Devan, general director and president of Opera Philadelphia; David Gray, executive director of the Pennsylvania Ballet; Roberto Díaz, President and CEO of the Curtis Institute of Music; Bill Rhoads, executive director of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia; Joan Myers Brown, founder and executive artistic director of Philadanco!; and Philip Maneval, executive director of the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society.

Here's how you can contribute:

1. Call or email your representatives

2. Post a quick message like the following on social media: Support federal funding for the arts, including #IMLS #NEA #NEH #CPB #SaveTheArts #FedFundsMatter