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Arts & Culture

NEA Chief Bullish About Arts in Wisconsin and Continued Federal Funding

Bonnie North

Jane Chu, chairwoman of the National Endowment of the Arts wrapped up a two-day visit to Wisconsin Thursday.

Chu visited the Oneida Nation, Sheboygan’s John Michael Kohler Arts Center and Latino Arts on Milwaukee’s near south side – all places which receive federal support through the NEA. In an era of diminishing resources and contentious politics, Chu says she’s grateful that federal arts funding has remained fairly stable.

"We’ve been very appreciative in this budget environment to be where we are. Last year the budget for the NEA was $146M and the draft bill is to keep the NEA budget at the same $146M. We’re most appreciative. There is also a proposed bill in the Senate to increase the amount, so we have experienced some very positive conversations," Chu said.

Wisconsin senator Tammy Baldwin, who accompanied the NEA Chairwoman on part of her trip Thursday, said she doesn't believe the shift to a Republican-majority Senate will have a negative impact on federal arts funding. She said the House and Senate are already near agreement on funding for the NEA.

"The House is currently controlled by Republicans, and they've gotten this far. So I'm optimistic that we will, for 2015, have a level or slight increase in funding for the NEA," Baldwin said.

Baldwin did say there could still be controversy over arts funding between now and when the federal budget is finalized.

After the NEA's Jane Chu watched a performance by the young members of the Latino Arts string program, she said support for the arts isn’t just about supporting artists.

"When you see what the arts leverage in terms of not only our vitality and meaning, but what they leverage tied to other what seem like fields that were not in the arts, the arts are one of the most affordable ways to provide meaning and quality of life, a transformation effecting the economy in a positive way, than just about any other subject matter or any other field," Chu added.