The State Arts Agency: An Overview of Cultural Federalism in the United States

April, 2001

This essay is a brief summary of the history of state arts councils (SAAs) of the United States. While these fifty-six agencies include the six special jurisdictions of the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and Northern Marrianas, the SAA designation is conventional. The discussion is organized into five sections: (1) historical background; (2) organizational structure; (3) budget data; (4) intergovernmental relations; (5) the future of public culture. The overall finding is that the revision in the relative resources of the national and subnational levels of government for funding the arts requires a reconfiguration of policymaking roles and responsibilities. In particular, the programmatic elements of a national cultural policy need to be assumed largely by the subnational levels of government. The decline and fall of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is lamentable, but seemingly irreversible. If there is to be a future for public culture in the United States, a post- NEA policymaking paradigm must be constructed.

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