Arts Funding

DC Arts Commission grant programs support established and emergent local arts businesses, and are the backbone of the DC arts community. Many arts businesses have small annual budgets and government funding has a direct impact on arts employment and programming.


DC is a city of 600,000 with 15-20 million tourist visitors per year. Arts and Culture are a vibrant part of the local economy. In addition to generating tax revenue directly, the Arts and Culture sector of DC’s economy supports local restaurants, hotels, and the convention center.


To participate in upcoming opportunities to advocate for arts funding join our e-list using the form on this website, and connect on facebook.




Local arts support was cut 69.88% from FY 09 to FY12. In 2009 the DC Arts Commission received $13,018,000 in local funds; in 2012 just $3,920,000. While those cuts were happening policymakers said they were necessary to balance the budget. We challenge that assertion. Cutting ten million in funding for the arts led to lost tax revenue and significantly harmed arts access but didn’t make a difference in the overall budget.


The total DC budget in FY09 was $10,826,622,000 and in FY 12 $11,558,323,000. As a percentage of the FY 12 budget FY 11 arts funding was just 0.034% of the DC budget. Making cuts to arts funding has a trickle up effect in lost tax revenue and service for residents, and no impact balancing the budget.


Our campaign, including 24 partnering organizations, led directly to an arts budget increase from under $4 million to over $11 million in 2012. Our more recent FY13, 14, and 15 campaigns have also resulted in funding increases: to $14 million, $16 million, and $17 million this past year.


Government funding for the DC arts community occurs in two ways. The U.S. Congress sets the funding level for the National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs (NCACA) program, administered by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, which funds District arts organizations of national reputation with budgets over $1 million dollars.


The Mayor and the DC City Council set the funding level for the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH), the granting agency for local artists and arts organizations. Organizations that receive operating supporting through NCACA are disallowed from receiving operating support from the DCCAH.


“For every $100 spent at a locally owned business, $45 goes back into the community and our tax base…Embrace what makes us different. Our one-of-a-kind businesses are an integral part of the distinctive character of our community.”– from Local First’s “Ten Reasons to Buy Local”




How the United States Funds the Arts is a NEA publication that discusses government and public support of arts in the United States.


The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies provides links to understand the role of arts and arts agencies in the United States.


Arts Funding Watch is the Foundation Center’s newsletter devoted to the arts. It provides links to arts-related news, funding opportunities and job listings.


Arts Funding IV  – An Update of Foundation Trends is the Foundation Center’s 2003 update on foundation funding of the arts.


Marketplace of Ideas: But First, The Bill” is a commentary on American and European arts funding.


The Art of Economics or the Economics of Art” on PBS discusses the impact of the current economy on arts organizations.