Economy's toll: 10 percent of arts groups could close this year

A House committee today takes up the effect of the slumping economy on the arts, with one group predicting that more than 10 percent of the nation's nonprofit arts organizations are at risk of closing this year.

Americans for the Arts, a nonprofit art advocacy organization, says the recession has meant severe cuts in public support for the arts as the stock market decline cuts into charitable giving. According to the National Endowment for the Arts, unemployment for artists rose at a higher rate than the overall workforce in 2008.

"The arts are part of this nation's economy and they need support from Congress to help prevent further job losses and reduction of cultural programming and educational opportunities to the communities they serve," said the group's president, Robert Lynch, who estimates that more than 10 percent of the country's 100,000 nonprofit arts organizations are at risk of closing this year.

Also testifying, Tim Daly, actor and co-president of The Creative Coalition and Michael Spring, director of Miami-Dade County's cultural affairs department, who says in prepared testimony that the slowing economy is "jeopardizing our ability to employ people and sustain this cultural segment of the economy."

For example, Spring noted that the Miami City Ballet made its "triumphal appearance at City Center in New York" two months ago to rave reviews. "Less than two weeks later, back in Miami, the ballet announced that due to the worsening economy, it was laying off 8 dancers and reducing its budget next season by more than 25 percent," Spring said. "There are more layoffs likely to come."

He called the arts a "major player in promoting Miami's new image for business and tourism."