Luján, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Bolster the Creative Economy, Provide Relief for Artists and Writers

Creative Workers Among the Hardest Hit by COVID-19 Pandemic

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) led a group of his colleagues in introducing the Creative Economy Revitalization Act (CERA) to help bolster the creative economy through the creation of a workforce grants program to employ artists and writers to create publicly available art. U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) are co-sponsors of the legislation, and U.S. Representative Teresa Leger Fernández (D-N.M.) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The creative economy was among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in 62% of creative workers – or more than 2 million Americans – experiencing unemployment. The arts and cultural sector lost an estimated $15.2 billion due to the pandemic.

The Creative Economy Revitalization Act would: 

  • Get creative workers back into jobs by creating a competitive workforce grants program within the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act;
  • Administer grants to eligible government, non-profit, and for-profit organizations, as well as state and local workforce boards through the Department of Labor in coordination with the National Endowment for the Arts;
  • Require that grantees create art that is public and accessible to the public such as free concert series, large-scale murals, photography exhibits, published stories or dance performances. 

“New Mexico’s vibrant creative economy is a critical economic driver for our state. As artists continue to recover and rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s essential that Congress provides support and relief to this important industry,” said Senator Luján. “This legislation will put New Mexico artists back to work and fuel the creative economy across the country. I’m grateful to Rep. Leger Fernandez and my Senate colleagues for their leadership on this issue as support for this legislation continues to grow.”

“During times of crisis, we turn to the arts for comfort and expression. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic harmed the revenues and sustainability of the many small businesses, artists, and live entertainment venues that make New York State a world-renowned cultural destination,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The Creative Economy Revitalization Act (CERA) would help these small businesses and jumpstart creative economies across the nation. This legislation is inspired by the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration, which hired artists who collectively created more than 100,000 paintings and murals and over 18,000 sculptures that are still found in municipal buildings, schools, and hospitals. I am committed to protecting and progressing the legacy of American art and culture by ensuring that the Creative Economy Revitalization Act puts creative Americans to work in communities in New York and across our nation.”

“New Mexico’s artists and cultural institutions were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m proud to introduce this legislation with Senator Luján to establish workforce grant programs tailored specifically to the unique strengths and challenges facing our creative arts and cultural sectors. These targeted investments will help artists and performers build back what has been a key driver of our state’s economy and sustain the traditions and creativity that have long supported our diverse and vibrant cultural heritage,” said Senator Heinrich.

“Artists are vital to the soul of our state and the country. California’s creative economy is a critical piece of our state’s success generating millions of jobs and billions in economic activity,” said Senator Padilla. “That is why we need the Creative Economy Revitalization Act to support local creators and their diverse, thought-provoking art – especially as we rebuild from a pandemic that has disproportionately affected artists’ livelihood.” 

“I grew up with musicos and poetas coming in and out of our family home. Through art, I gained pride in my identity and an understanding and appreciation for other cultures,” said Leger Fernández. “I’m inspired by the cultural legacy we inherited from the WPA.  Similarly, this pandemic has devastated our creative workers and we must engage them to create art that unites and brings joy to our communities. In a time when our nation is so divided, we desperately need to be reminded of what makes our communities beautiful and diverse. This bill will provide grants to help fund projects that bring communities back together and remind us of what binds us together as Americans. We will build back beautifully.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. Conference of Mayors adopted a resolution in support of the Creative Economy Revitalization Act. More than 175 organizations endorsed the legislation, including the Freelancers Union, Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, City of Albuquerque Department of Arts & Culture, Americans for the Arts, Authors Guild, American Planning Association, Arts Workers United, National Alliance of Community and Economic Development Agencies (NACEDA), U.S. Department of Arts and Culture (USDAC), National Writers Union, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), Actors’ Equity Association, and Department for Professional Employees – AFL-CIO. 

“Americans for the Arts, in partnership with the nation’s 4,500 local arts agencies, 56 state arts agencies, 5.2 million creative workers and the state arts alliances that advocate for them, endorses the Creative Economy Revitalization Act to invest in the creative economy. Supporting creative workers makes strong business sense as the arts drive economic and community transformation in American cities and towns. The Arts are a national asset, and our country thrives because artists and creative workers are a part of the collective workforce helping our citizens recover and grow from the trauma of COVID-19 and racial inequity, restart stalled local economies, and reimagine our shared way forward,” said Nolen V. Bivens, President and CEO, Americans for the Arts .

Full text of the legislation can be found HERE.  

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