The federal government has never had a major role in arts funding in the U.S.—which is overwhelmingly supported by private patron spending and philanthropy. In 2014, total spending by all U.S. art nonprofits came to more than $60 billion. Sales of tickets and art works covered two thirds of those costs. Charitable giving covered another quarter (over $17 billion was donated to arts, culture, and humanities organizations in 2014). Meanwhile, the National Endowment for the Arts granted out $117 million in 2014. For perspective on how small this federal role is, consider that the nascent “crowdfunding” website Kickstarter surpassed the NEA in 2012 in the amount it passes on to arts creators. By 2015, Kickstarter was distributing several times as much annual funding to artists as the NEA. Indicators of Kickstarter’s new role in providing venture capital for the arts include the fact that works funded by its donors now regularly win Grammy and Academy awards, get exhibited at museums like the MoMa and Smithsonian, and perform in top venues like the Kennedy Center and Sundance Film Festival.
- Giving USA 2013, “Chapter 14: Giving to arts, culture, and humanities,” (Giving USA Foundation, 2013).
- 2014 NEA Annual Report, arts.gov/sites/default/files/2014%20Annual%20Report.pdf
- Spending statistics for Kickstarter, kickstarter.com/help/stats