Arts funding falls

By Jennifer Whytock

Foundation giving to the arts fell an estimated 3.5 percent to $4.05 billion in 2002, outpacing the 0.7 percent decline in overall foundation giving, a new study says.

Adjusted for inflation, foundations gave 5 percent less to the arts and 2.3 percent less overall, says Arts Funding IV, a study by the Foundation Center.

Despite the decline, foundations gave more to the arts in 2002 than in any year ever except 2001, when arts funding totaled $4.2 billion.

Accounting for almost 12 percent of foundation giving overall, the arts likely took a big hit because foundations made fewer of the large capital grants that typically benefit the arts more than other fields of interest, says Steven Lawrence, the center’s research director.

Foundations also may have shifted funding priorities away from the arts to areas such as health, he says, adding that the center has not studied that possible shift.

“When times are tough, most donors turn to immediate, pressing needs, and people respond to human needs more than arts needs when they have to make a choice,” says Tom McGuire, executive director of the A.J. Fletcher Foundation in Raleigh, N.C.

“Due to economic conditions of the past several years, this foundation has less to give now, so we had to make a choice too,” says McGuire.

The A.J. Fletcher foundation, which publishes the Philanthropy Journal, gives nearly half of its annual $3 million in grants to the arts, but expects to reduce arts giving to less than 5 percent after fulfilling a 10-year, $10 million pledge to the A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute at the N.C. School of the Arts in 2010, McGuire says.

With assets of U.S. foundation declining in 2001 for the first time in 20 years, and expected to decline again in 2002, the Foundation Center predicts all foundation giving, including to the arts, will continue to drop for several years.

“There is usually a lag in foundation giving relative to a drop in foundation assets,” Lawrence says, “so while giving did not fall as quickly as assets fell, giving also will not rebound as quickly when assets go back up.”

While many foundations remain committed to funding the arts, some are giving less to certain arts programs or are not making new grants, foundation executives and analysts say.

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, which lost over half of its $9.7 billion in assets from 2000 to 2002, now gives to arts programs in only four counties in northern California, eliminating grants to national arts groups, says Chris DeCardy, Packard’s communications director.

After giving $14.9 million to arts groups in 2001, Packard gave only $4.4 in 2002 and plans to give $3.5 million this year.

“Proportionally, our grants to the arts have not been cut more than grants to other programs, “DeCardy says. “We have had reductions across the board.”

Packard’s total grants fell to $230 million in 2002 from $450 million in 2001, and are budgeted to decline to $200 million in 2003.

Nine in 10 foundations gave to the arts in 2001, up from eight in 10 in 1995, according to the Foundation Center study, which is based on estimates of 2002 giving and on details of 2001 giving by 1,000 of the largest foundations.

Nearly 12 percent of foundation grant dollars supported arts and culture in 2001, compared to 27 percent for education, 21 percent for health and 14 percent for human services.

The share of foundation grant dollars to the arts by field of interest include:

* Museum activities – 34 percent.

* Performing arts – 30 percent.

* Media/communications – 8 percent.

* Multidisciplinary arts – 8 percent.

* Visual arts – 7 percent.

* Historical activities – 6 percent.

* Arts-related humanities – 3 percent.

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