Two Dozen Mayors From Across the US Are Urging Congress to Send Urgently Needed Funding for the Arts in Its Next Relief Package

The arts sector generates nearly 5 percent of the nation's GDP.

The facade of UNTITLED ART , Pier 35 at The Embarcadero in San Francisco.
The facade of UNTITLED ART, Pier 35 at The Embarcadero in San Francisco.

Mayors from 22 cities across the country, including those from New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, sent a letter to congress this week to formally ask for funding for the arts and culture sector in the next relief package. 

The letter, which was spearheaded by the San Francisco Arts Alliance and promoted by San Francisco Mayor London Breed, calls for additional funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Institute of Museum and Library Services. It also urges congress to extend the duration of unemployment insurance for artists and self-employed workers, provide more forgivable loans to nonprofit organizations, and ensure the rapid processing of artist visas, among other requests.

“This is about far more than the cancellation of performances and exhibitions,” the letter reads. “This is about individuals—artists and cultural workers alike—whose livelihoods are being threatened if not already irrevocably impacted. This is also about the soul of our communities: It is the arts that make each of our communities unique. And it is the arts that will help our communities survive and thrive economically.”

San Francisco Mayor London Breed speaks onstage at Civic Center Plaza during the Women's March San Francisco on January 19, 2019 in San Francisco, California. Photo: Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed speaks onstage at Civic Center Plaza during the Women’s March San Francisco on January 19, 2019 in San Francisco, California. Photo: Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images.

Addressed to house speaker Nancy Pelosi, house minority leader Kevin McCarthy, senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, and senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, the document goes on to cite data about the scope of arts and culture jobs nationwide, noting that the sector employs “more than 5 million workers” and “contributed $877.8 billion, or 4.5 percent, to the nation’s gross domestic product in 2017,” per a March 2020 survey conducted by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The letter estimates that losses in the sector have amounted to $4.8 billion over the past two months. 

“The arts and culture sector exists to serve the creativity of the community and is an essential vehicle for healing and the equitable and sustainable redevelopment of cities across the nation,” says Deborah Cullinan, co-chair of the San Francisco Arts Alliance and CEO of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, in a statement. 

“As we evolve the ways we produce and bring audiences together,” Cullinan continues, “it is only by working hand-in-hand with the support of our government on the federal, state, and local level that we will be able to provide creative homes for artists and centers for community engagement.”

See the full list of mayors who signed the document below:

Steve Adler (Austin, TX); Jim Brainard (Carmel, IN); London N. Breed (San Francisco, CA); LaToya Cantrell (New Orleans, LA); John Cooper (Nashville, TN); Bill de Blasio (New York, NY); Mike Duggan (Detroit, MI); Jenny A. Durkan (Seattle, WA); Kate Gallego (Phoenix, AZ); Eric Garcetti (Los Angeles, CA); Michael B. Hancock (Denver, CO); Jim Kenney (Philadelphia, PA); Sam Liccardo (San Jose, CA); Lori Lightfoot (Chicago, IL); Erin Mendenhall (Salt Lake City, UT); Satya Rhodes-Conway (Madison, WI); Regina Romero (Tucson, AZ); Libby Schaaf (Oakland, CA); Darrell Steinberg (Sacramento, CA); Sylvester Turner (Houston, TX); Martin J. Walsh (Boston, MA); Ted Wheeler (Portland, OR); and Victoria Woodards (Tacoma, WA).

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