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Stimulus Leaves Out Latino Arts Organizations

RUMBO/New America Media, Special Report, Lolb Corona Posted: Feb 13, 2010

Editor's Note: This story, which originally appeared in RUMBO, was produced as part of NAM's Stimulus Watch coverage and was funded with a grant from the Open Society Institute. It is part one of a three-part series.

The Southwest School of Arts and Craft
was one of five Latino organization to receive
ARRA funds, Ph: Southwest School
President Barack Obama's stimulus package allocated $50 million for the country's cultural section, but only a few tens of thousands have gone to Latino organizations.

Many were the called, few were the chosen. According to the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture (NALAC), only 14 artistic and cultural organizations in the United States received support from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), with funds allocated from the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). ARRA, one of President Obama's first legislative victories, was designed to create new jobs and save others that were jeopardized as a result of the economic crisis.

We acknowledge that it was a competitive process, but 14 Latino organizations, out of more than 630 beneficiaries of the NEA, constitutes only two percent, said Maria Lopez de Leon, Executive Director of NALAC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the development of Latino arts in the country.

In the state of Texas, according to Lopez de Leon, only two Latino organizations received ARRA funds through the NEA: Houstons Arte Publico Press, and NALAC itself, based in San Antonio (see attached list).

Where did the money go?

ARRA included several initiatives for stimulus purposes. In the art sectors, one of the chief measures included a package of $50 million, to be distributed by NEA, the largest governmental entity dedicated to supporting the arts in the United States.

60% of ARRA funding for the arts was awarded directly by NEA ($29,925,000), and the remaining 40% was awarded through local and state agencies.
14 Latino organizations funded by ARRA through NEA are:
1. Amigos del Museo del Barrio. Nueva York, NY. $50,000
2. Ballet Hispnico of New York. Nueva York, NY. $50,000
3. Gala Grupo de Artistas Latinoamericanos. Washington, DC. $50,000
4. Jos Limn Dance Foundation. Nueva York, NY. $50,000
5. National Hispanic Cultural Center Foundation. Albuquerque, NM. $50,000
6. National Museum of Mexican Art. Chicago, IL. $50,000
7. Radio Bilinge, Inc. Fresno, CA. $25,000
8. Santa Cecilia Opera and Orchestra Association. Los ngeles, CA. $25,000
9. Spanish Theatre Repertory Company, Ltd. Nueva York, NY. $50,000
10. Arte Pblico Press. Houston, TX. $25,000
11. National Association of Latino Arts and Culture. San Antonio, TX. $50,000
12. Borderlands Theater Teatro Fronterizo, Inc. Tucson, AZ. $25,000
13. Cornerstone Theater Company, Inc. Los ngeles, CA. $50,000
14. Ballet Concierto de Puerto Rico .San Juan, PR. $50,000

According to the NEA, of the 2,424 organizations that requested funds directly from them museums, symphony orchestras, art schools, dance academies, and opera companies, among others only 636 art institutions received some aid.

Most awards were in the $25,000 - $50,000 range.

I am not sure that the number [14 Latino organizations that received funding, according to NALAC] is accurate," said Sally Gifford, spokeswoman for the NEA. "The details of how the funds were awarded are much more complex."

According to Gifford, more Latino cultural organizations received funds through regional and state arts agencies, which redistributed some ARRA funds for the arts. Altogether, those entities would have granted 63 awards, for a total of $19,790,000.

Many such funds were channeled directly to Latino organizations through local or regional art agencies, the spokeswoman said..

Another element that has not been taken into consideration is how many of the awardees support Latino art, and reach Latino audiences, she added.

But NALACs Lopez de Leon argues that a Latino arts organization should defined as one whose mission is focused on Latino art and culture, one whose executives and directors are of Latino origin, or one whose board of directors is at least 51% Latino.

Simply because an organization serves a Latino population does not make it a Latino organization," she said. According to NALACs database, there are more than 500 Latino cultural organizations and more than 5,000 Latino artists in the United States.

We know that funds were allocated at the local and state levels also, but what we observed is that there was a lack of fair representation in the distribution at the federal level [through NEA]. In addition, federal funds were greater than those distributed at the state and local levels, said NALACs Executive Director.

A matter of perspective

Regarding the question of whether or not Latino presence was lacking during ARRA funds distribution, Jim Bob McMillan, deputy director of the Texas Art Commission (TAC) said with such a small amount of funds allocated to the arts in general, there were some limitations." McMilliam said his agency received just $427,300 from ARRA to support art organizations in the state.

So TAC set up a series of criteria to screen who was eligible for ARRA funding. The chief selection criterion to request stimulus dollars was that applying institutions had received funding from NEA in the last four years.

In Texas, of the 300 organizations that requested funds from ARRA through TAC, only 26 received grants of $16,000 each. Accoring to the arts commission, this amount helped to keep or create 47 art-related full-or part-time jobs, of administrative, technical, or educational nature.

According to McMillan, of these 26, five were Latino organizations.

Winners and losers

Our objective is not to attack NEA just to see what comes of it," said Lopez de Leon. "We understand that they did what they could, but they should have been more inclusive when awarding federal funds to minorities. Especially because of the social and economic repercussions that it will have on the Latino arts, as well as on artistic Latino organizations."

In 2009, NALAC conducted two surveys. One, in which 64 organizations and more than 120 artists were interviewed, centered on the effects of the economic crisis on Latino organizations. The second with participation of 34 Latino organizations focused on the economic stimulus awarded by ARRA through NEA.

Preliminary results from the second survey, shared exclusively with RUMBO, show that 99% of the organizations that did not receive ARRA dollars were forced to carry out a series of cutbacks, including layoffs. 57.9% of those organizationsreported programming cutbacks, 31.6% had to lay off some staff or reduced overall labor time, and 36.8% took other measures.

The decision not to fund minority organizations carries grave consequences for many communities. Many of these organizations will be forced to close their doors, doing away with venues for cultural expression. The creation of art will also be affected, added Lopez.

NALAC, which initially was not approved for funding from ARRA through NEA, received $50,000 from the stimulus in a subsequent round, which was used to save two jobs and keep a contract to make improvements to its website.

We estimate that the money awarded by ARRA directly through NEA will help maintain or create 4,000 full or part--time jobs in the country, which is a great contribution to the Arts, said NEA spokeswoman Victoria Hutter.

For now, the 50 million in funds awarded by the ARRA in 2009 through NEA were one-time award packages, and it has not been decided if similar resources will be available in 2010.

Related Articles:

Brooklyn Asks: Where Did the Stimulus Funds Go?

Obama Administration Threatens to Yank Stimulus Funds Over Civil Right

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