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Udall bill aims to help professional artists

WASHINGTON – With President Donald Trump’s administration proposing deep cuts to federal funding for the arts, Sen. Tom Udall on Tuesday introduced a bill that he said could help stimulate New Mexico’s robust arts economy.

Sen. Tom Udall

Sen. Tom Udall

Udall, D-N.M., teamed with Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., on a bill that would direct the U.S. Small Business Administration to work with microlenders, traditional lenders and regulators to ensure that artists and entrepreneurs have access to microloans.

The bill would also establish a law allowing artists to claim tax deductions for charitable contributions based on the sale value of a piece of artwork, rather than the value of the materials used to create the artwork. It would also direct the Corporation for National and Community Service to assist artists with grant writing, marketing and financial planning, among other initiatives.

“With more artists per capita than any other state, New Mexico is home to one of the most vibrant artistic communities in the nation, and our artists play a vital role in shaping our culture, attracting tourists and creating jobs,” Udall said in announcing his bill at an event on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

Udall is the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over arts funding.

A 2014 report by the University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research found that the arts and cultural industries in the state were a primary source of employment for 43,031 New Mexicans – roughly equal to the state’s construction industry and 50 percent larger than the manufacturing industry.

The White House last week proposed eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts budget, which totaled $148 million in fiscal 2016. But the ultimate decision about funding rests with Congress. The NEA helps finance nearly 200 arts projects around New Mexico, according to New Mexico Arts.

“We are disappointed because we see our funding actively making a difference with individuals of all ages in thousands of communities, large, small, urban and rural, and in every congressional district in the nation,” National Endowment for the Arts Chairwoman Jane Chu said of the White House proposal.

Although public funding for arts and humanities sometimes comes under fire from conservatives, Udall said he remains confident that despite Trump’s budget proposal, money for the arts will remain in the federal budget.

“I really believe there is a vast well of support out there for the arts,” Udall told the Journal on Tuesday. “I’ve been through this before and … there is such a wide network of support that people just come back like gangbusters. Generally, Republicans have been very supportive of the arts.”