Comment: If U.S. budget is not resolved by tonight, D.C. museums must shut down

Kyle Chayka,, 4/7/11

This weekend, the usually free National Gallery of Art might not be -- in fact, it could not be open at all. With the distinct possibility of a government shutdown looming as a result of disagreements between Democrats and Republicans over setting a national budget, public museums may be the first to close their doors at the end of this week.  Most employees won't be able to work and visitors won't have any access to the institutions. But don't worry about the art -- museum security would still work even while administrators and visitor attendants stay home. This government conflict comes at a bad time for DC's museums, considering they're approaching one of the biggest visitor weekends of the year, centered around the National Cherry Blossom Festival's conclusion. "The Smithsonian counts about 3 million visits each April and has already sold 23,000 IMAX movie and lunch combos to school groups for the month," the Boston Herald notes. According to estimates by the Smithsonian, "500,000 visitors could be turned away from the National Zoo and the major Smithsonian museums on the Mall."  How's that for budget shortfalls? Don't worry about government funding cuts, national museums really won't be able to stay open if they can't even sell tickets, or, you know, have visitors.  During a similar three-week shutdown in 1995, national museums and monuments closed, with an estimated loss of about 2 million visitors".   Cross your fingers for a new budget, folks. Funding cuts will hurt, but they're better than closed doors.

Kennedy Center plans to stay open with curtailed staff, if government shuts down

The Kennedy Center website

The Center receives a federal appropriation for operations and maintenance of [its] public spaces. The Center is explicitly prohibited from using appropriated funds "for any direct expense incurred in the production of a performing arts attraction, for personnel who are involved in performing arts administration (including any supply or equipment used by the personnel), or for production, staging, public relations, marketing, fundraising, ticket sales, or education". The Kennedy Center, as a charitable trust, uses a combination of earned income, contributions and grants to perform its performing arts and educational functions.  In the event of a Government shutdown, the Kennedy Center will continue its non-appropriated functions and honor all non-appropriated fund contracts, including planned performances, educational activities, public trust functions (such as the Kennedy Center Box Office, Retail and Parking Operations), and employment activities for its approximately 1,150 trust employees. This is consistent with the Center's activities during the 1995-1996 Government shutdowns, during which the Kennedy Center remained open and performances were maintained as scheduled.   Federal operations will be curtailed to the extent possible and non-essential federal personnel will be furloughed within one-half day.


...but Ford's Theatre would be forced to cancel its programming

Ford's Theatre website

In case of a government shutdown, all programming within the Ford's Theatre National Historic Site (including evening and matinee performances of Liberty Smith and performances of One Destiny) would be cancelled. History on Foot walking tour programming will continue as scheduled. Ford's Theatre Society will continue to update its website and Box Office number with the most up-to-date information for visitors.  Since the 1968 reopening of Ford's Theatre, the National Park Service and the independent 501c3 Ford's Theatre Society have worked in a public/private partnership to provide nearly one million visitors each year a high quality historic and cultural experience at Ford's Theatre.


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An open letter to the United States Congress from actor/director Tim Robbins

Americans for the Arts blog, 4/7/11

I am one amongst many Americans who have benefited greatly from programs the NEA has supported over the 46 years of its existence.  But recently a reactionary voice has been amplified in this country that argues that arts funding is superfluous, an indulgent drain on the economy. Not only is this reactionary voice wholeheartedly misguided and deceptive but this voice threatens the future cultural and economic life of this country. The simple truth is that people spend money when they attend arts events.  Why would anyone in his or her right mind eliminate funding to a proven income generating economic engine?  What is the end game here? What is the vision of those that would deprive children of the chance to see great paintings, or to hear the music of Mozart or experience the theater of Shakespeare? What kind of society are they imagining? And what are we saying about ourselves if we allow this to happen?  A small amount of narrow-minded people with a loud megaphone are calling for the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts. They do not represent the majority of this country. I would like to believe that we can reach out to the reasonable, adult leaders of this country in both political parties that see the legitimacy and importance of the NEA.  It would be tragic to give up on the idea that a nation's support of innovative artistic expression is a necessary component to its future relevance and its ultimate brilliance.  Do we really want to be known from this point forward as the only advanced society in the world that completely disregards the importance of art?  Is this to be the legacy of the 112th Congress? 


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Video: Art imitates life...

FROM TC: As the US budget showdown moves into its final hours, I am not alone in remembering the episode from the TV series The West Wing, where a Republican Speaker of the House plays a game of political chicken with the Democratic president and then the government actually shuts down?  Here's a video clip of the episode's pivotal scene:

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