WHAT DOES BIDEN’S PRESIDENCY MEAN TO THE ARTS?

Tavares Strachan, We Are in This Together (Multi), (2019). Photo courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery.

 In a recent interview, Biden described the arts as “the expression of our souls.”[1]

As an $877 annual billion industry, the cultural sector is intrinsically shaped to the political environment and the acts of USA’s leadership, especially the employment and endowments of governmentally dependent museums. This is why we have broken down some of Joe Biden’s historical position towards the creative industry and his stand on key issues in the arts:

  • From 1973 to 2009, Biden took a firm stance in support of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) while being senator for Delaware.
  • In 1993, 1997, and 1999, Biden voted against amendments that would eliminate all funding for the endowment.
  • In 1991, 1994, 1997, Biden opposed cuts to the NEA agency’s budget.
  • In 1997, Biden voted against Amendment 1206, which would have privatized the agency within a three-year time span.
  • In 1973, he supported a resolution to establish the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress.
  • In 2000, Biden helped designate March as Arts Education Month.
  • In 2001, Biden was an original co-sponsor of legislation to establish the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.
  • From 2009 to 2017, as Vice President to President Barack Obama, Biden was part of an administration that consistently endorsed and encouraged creative expression.
  • In 2009, amid the economic crisis, Biden helped to negotiate a $50 million for the arts through a stimulus bill.
  • In 2012, the Obama-Biden administration proposed to increase the NEA’s budget by $9 million and kept a $232 million funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
  • In 2017, Biden participated in the commissioning the first portrait of a First Lady by an African American woman, Amy Sherald.
  • In 2020, Biden and Harris launched the Arts Action Fund #ArtsVote to encourage voting through the use of arts and arts advocates. With this association enrolled 427,081 members who actively spread campaigns and strategy and were able to mobilize one million citizens towards voting.
  • In addition, in 2020, the Biden-Harris campaign commissioned artists to create murals to encourage voter turnout across Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.
  • Biden’s son is the painter Hunter Biden.

Jeff Koons, Flag (2020) in David Zwirner

Pledges:

  • Creation of a Smithsonian National Museum of the American Latino.
  • Commitment to promote and support the arts in schools, as well as the diversity and richness of ideas that keep the art world alive.
  • Partnership with David Zwirner with the idea to launch an online art fundraiser. From Cindy Sherman, to Betty Saar, and Marilyn Minter, the special fundraising auction and exhibition includes young artists like Christine Sun Kim and Christina Quarles, as well as endorsed artists who are no longer with us but were activists, like Robert Rauschenberg and John Baldessari.
  • Creation of the Biden Arts Policy Committee (not yet defined).

Conversely, Kamala Harris has also stated and acted towards the support of the arts, multiculturalism and creative liberty:

  • From 1996 to 2011, Harris was a trustee on the board of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
  • In 2018, Harris supported the creation of the Hispanic Heritage Month, the National Native American Heritage Month and the Filipino American History Month.
  • In June of 2020, Harris co-sponsored the Confederate Monument Removal Act.
  • In 2006, helped organize the display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) in San Francisco.
  • In 2019, Kamala Harris sponsored a bill to direct the Joint Committee on the Library to include a statue of Shirley Chisholm to be displayed in the Capitol.
  • In 2020, Harris joined a campaign to create a comprehensive women’s history museum within the Smithsonian Institution, a bill that has been slowly gaining traction with the centennial celebration of women’s suffrage in 2020.
  • Harris is a current member of the San Francisco Jazz Organization and chaired the San Francisco Symphony’s annual fundraiser.
  • Harris’s stepdaughter, Ella Emhoff is an artist.

This close relationship between the Democratic winning party and the arts is quite reciprocal, as a Brooklyn-based art collective developed a campaign backing “Creatives FOR Biden.” This initiative encouraged submissions of designs, sculptures, and illustrations and received over 130 contributions from more than 60 artists.

“The arts are essential to our free and democratic society, to our culture, and to our local economies. Democrats are proud of our support for arts funding and education, and will continue policies and programs that promote the creative arts,” states the 2020 Democratic Party platform.[2]

What matters right now is America’s recovery from a tumultuous period. For some, that means 10 months; for others it means four years; for many, it means a lifetime. But this, too, shall pass. And when we begin to clean up, to bury our dead, to mourn, we will need art to help guide us through.


[1] Popescu, Adam. “There’s a New Artist in Town. The Name Is Biden.” New York Times, 29 Feb. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/02/28/arts/design/hunter-biden-art.html.

[2] “2020 Democratic Party Platform.” Democratic National Convention, 31 July 2020, www.demconvention.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/2020-07-31-Democratic-Party-Platform-For-Distribution.pdf.

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