The Arts in Maryland: Why They Matter and How You Can Support Them

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Maryland enjoys the benefits of a broad and deep arts sector. There are nationally recognized artists and organizations in every arts discipline, from museums to performing arts to multi-disciplinary groups, and they can be found in every corner of the State. Maryland and its citizens support the arts through Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC), which was established over four decades ago to insure the continued vibrancy of the arts.
Why are the arts important for Maryland?
In a competitive, twenty-first century global environment, the arts
  • Provide job growth, foster consumer spending, and generate tax revenues.
  • Support quality education for our school children by raising academic achievement, fostering positive work ethic, and improving attendance
  • Build communities that will attract and retain an educated, creative workforce
  • Raise the regional, national, and international visibility of Maryland
  • Attract cultural tourists to the State
  • Drive much needed economic development
  • Enhance the quality of lifefor all Marylanders
  • Celebrate the rich diversity of our cultural achievements
Long History of Bipartisan Support for the Arts
In 1992, the Governor’s Commission on the Future of the Arts in Maryland—a blue-ribbon panel of business leaders from across the State—recommended that Maryland fund the operating budgets of arts organizations at the 10% level.
In 1994, following a period of serious economic downturn, the Maryland State Legislature enacted the forward-thinking Arts Stabilization Law, which assures consistent and equitable arts funding throughout the State during good times and bad. 
This legislation sets a reliable level of MSAC funding; its floor is tied to prior year agency funding, increased by the same percentage of growth in State revenues. The Arts Stabilization Bill calls for qualified arts organizations and county arts councils to receive a modest percentage of their annual operating budgets from MSAC--over the past decade, from 6.5% to 9%.
The State leaders who conceived this legislation recognized that revenue sources for arts organizations were particularly sensitive to poor economic conditions; moreover, they knew that arts organizations, when crippled, take an especially long time to recover.  They envisioned strong State funding as essential in just the challenging times we face today.
Positive Impact of Arts Funding
State funding been leveraged effectively by the arts. Each year, all grantees raise and earn the remainder of their budgets, ranging between 91% and 93.5% from 1999 to 2009. Every dollar invested by the State of Maryland has been matched better than nine to one.
State funding for the arts is distributed by MSAC. While these grants constitute a small percentage of the total budgets of each arts organization, make no mistake about it: they are critical to maintaining the quality of arts programming and public access for all members of our communities. MSAC grants serve as a fiscal foundation for grantees, generating funds that cover essential needs, from utilities to programs for school children. This is why MCA continues to advocate for 10% MSAC funding for arts organizations.
Importance of Arts Funding in a Time of Economic Challenge
State funding for the arts becomes even more critical as arts organizations struggle to maintain their service to the community during times of economic challenge. Arts organizations receive some municipal and county funding, but their impact generally extends across municipal and county boundaries to serve regional and statewide audiences. In Maryland, there are relatively few foundations that dedicate significant funding to the arts. Corporate giving to the arts is linked to the size and success of Maryland’s business sector; it shrinks in tough economic times. Private citizens actually provide the bulk of arts funding by making financial contributions and by purchasing admission and tickets to arts events; their family budgets are pinched now too.
MSAC a Leader in the Field
MSAC, a State agency within the Department of Business and Economic Development, provides grants and offers a range of technical services to artists, arts organizations, and twenty-four county arts councils. It also oversees seventeen Arts and Entertainment Districts as well as the program that commissions art for public places.  
MSAC’s core grant program provides operating support for Maryland’s arts organizations. MSAC evaluates these grant requests rigorously, involving nationally recognized experts in the review of Maryland arts organizations. MSAC activities are overseen by Councilors, informed citizens who represent the needs and interests of the communities served by arts organizations.

What can you do to help MSAC and the arts in Maryland?
  • Each year, State Legislators can vote to maintain the level of arts funding provided for in the Arts Stabilization Law.
  • Marylanders can advocate for State arts funding by contacting governmental officials.
  • Join and support MCA!
Prepared and circulated by MCA (Maryland Citizens for the Arts).