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US arts funding by the numbers

Washington, DC, leads the nation in arts spending per capita, but which state spends the least?

by Julia Halperin  |  12 June 2015
US arts funding by the numbers
San Francisco mayor Ed Lee visits the Museum of the African Diaspora
Government funding for the arts is a tricky business. On 29 May, San Francisco’s mayor Ed Lee announced that he would increase the city’s arts budget by $7m over the next two years. But the arts are still a shrinking part of San Francisco’s budget. As a percentage of the total budget, the city’s arts purse has fallen by 25% over the past 10 years, according to SFGate.

The budgets for city, state and federal arts agencies in the US are rarely proportional to the size of the publics they serve. San Francisco’s arts budget is larger than that of the entire state of California. On 15 May, California’s governor Jerry Brown made a late addition of around $5m to the state’s arts agency, boosting its 2015 budget by 500%—from $1.1m.

Meanwhile, New York City’s department of cultural affairs has more money to play with this year ($157.2m) than the federal National Endowment for the Arts ($146m). New York City’s cultural budget, which serves a population of 8.4 million, is also larger than that of every state in the US. (To make matters less equitable, New York also has the largest state arts agency, with an annual budget of around $40m.)

The average state shells out around $1.09 per capita on arts-related spending, according to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. Funded through state budgets, grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the occasional private donation, these unglamorous, on-the-ground organisations fund everything from arts education programmes to free concerts. To find out which states dedicate the most money to the arts per capita, see below.

Which states spend the most on the arts per capita?

Washington, DC: $23.98
Puerto Rico: $6.74
Minnesota: $6.26
Delaware: $3.57
Florida: $2.37
Maryland: $2.71
Wyoming: $2.09
New York: $2.02
Rhode Island: $2

Which states spend the least?

Georgia: $0.06
Kansas: $0.07
Wisconsin: $0.14
Washington and Arizona: $0.15
Texas: $0.22
California: $0.24
New Hampshire: $0.30
Virginia, Idaho and Indiana: $0.43
Nevada: $0.45

Figures for FY2015 courtesy the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies

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