Today, the Obama Administration released its FY 2012 budget request to Congress and it calls for a $21 million funding decrease for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).
If approved, the NEA's $167.5 million budget will be trimmed to $146 million. The NEA is the largest grantmaker to arts organizations in the nation.
The NEA, curently led by Broadway theater producer Rocco Landesman (pictured, right), had seen steady funding increases since 2004.
Some in Congress are calling for even deeper cuts. One is Rep. Jim Jordan who leads the House Republican Study Committee. Jordan has expressed a desire to eliminate the NEA budget altogether.
That move mirrors an unrealized 1994 effort by then House Speaker Newt Gingrich who called for the elimination of the NEA, along with the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Regardless of the outcome, the focus and scope of the NEA is changing, especially under Landesman, who is forging first-ever partnerships with other federal entities like the Department of Transportation.
Not only does Landesman want to the agency to become less insular, he believes the number of arts offerings now outmatch the size of the audience willing to see them.
That much became clear in a recent Washington Post story which quoted Landesman about audience attendance figures.
In that story, Landesman was asked about plunging audience figures, wherein he responded "there are too many theaters."
The number of arts nonprofits has been growing steadily since 2007, but audiences have not, as cited by a 2008 NEA survey of public participation in the arts.
That survey established a 5 percent drop, from 2002, in the number of adults visiting art museums or attending live performances.