Contrabass Conversations frequent collaborator and classicalmusicnews.tv blogger John Grillo continues his Art of the Deficit series this week with a post examining the role that the National Endowment for the Arts plays in the budgets of many symphony orchestras. John went to a grant workshop for the NEA in 2007 and left with some new insight into how the grant process works for arts organizations.
The biggest revelation of attending this workshop is that the NEA only provides grants on a project by project basis. They made it extremely clear that they do not support the daily operations of any arts group. Every grant proposal was to be in reference to a specific project. I was under the impression that they would give an orchestra funding and that the money would support the general operations of the organization. If this is the way the NEA functions, how does this relate to the bottom line of an orchestra budget?
The question I posed to myself was this. I compared the grant amount that each orchestra received with the size of their annual budget. The numbers were shocking. So small. For example, lets take the Columbus Symphony in Ohio. They are in the middle of a financial crisis right now. Their annual budget is around 12 million dollars and their 2007 grant from the NEA was $15,000. That is barely 1/8 of 1%. This is almost a negligible amount. The ratio is about the same even when you look at the big budget groups. The Los Angeles Philharmonic received the highest grant for an orchestra in 2007 at $100,000. Their budget is around 70 millions dollars. That leaves their percentage at around 1/7 of 1%. Even though something is better than nothing, the numbers and percentages are very telling.