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Leger Fernández and Obernolte Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Revamp Creative Economy, Put Artists Back to Work

August 13, 2021


WASHINGTON -  Today, U.S. Representatives Teresa Leger Fernández (D-NM) and Jay Obernolte (R-CA), introduced the bipartisan Creative Economy Revitalization Act. The Senate companion of the Creative Economy Revitalization Act will be introduced by U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-NM). The bill would help revamp the creative economy through the creation of a workforce grants program to employ artists and writers to create publicly available art. 

Creative workers have been some of the most severely impacted by the COVID pandemic. At the height of the pandemic in 2020, 63% of creative workers experienced unemployment, translating to over 2 million Americans. Since the start of the pandemic, the U.S. has lost an estimated 15.2 billion dollars in the arts and cultural sector alone. Just as important as these livelihoods is the culture and well-being of communities they contribute to.

“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.” 

“The arts have long been a staple of our culture in the High Desert, Eastern Sierra and Inland Empire,” said Rep. Obernolte. “As we come together to build back our economies, we must pay special attention to our artists and the industries that were hurt most by the pandemic. Our small and local artists tell the stories of our communities. Their role in bringing us together is more important now than ever.”

“New Mexico’s vibrant creative economy is a critical economic driver for our state. As artists continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s essential that Congress provides support for this important industry,” said Luján. “This legislation will help put thousands of artists back to work and fuel the creative economy in New Mexico and across the country. I’m proud to partner with Congresswoman Leger Fernandez to introduce this legislation, and I look forward to working with leaders across New Mexico to support the arts economy.”

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, for-profit organizations, and 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. 

This bill is inspired by the WPA, where artists created masterpieces of murals, collected songs and stories, and captured America in searing pictures as we came out of the Great Depression. 

Find the full legislation textHERE. 

A one pager on the legislation can be found HERE. 

This legislation is co-sponsored by Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Ted Lieu (D-CA). The Senate bill will be cosponsored by Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Alex Padilla (D-CA).

The Creative Economy Revitalization Act is endorsed by over 175 organizations, 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. 

Find the full list of endorsements HERE.

“As communities plan for recovery and reinvention, the creative economy is more important than ever in creating civic spaces and vibrant neighborhoods that drive economic development, advance social equity, and increase opportunity for all. Planning for a strong creative economy is essential, and the American Planning Association is pleased to endorse the Creative Economy Revitalization Act as a vital tool for building the health and prosperity of the nation’s communities.”

- Leo Asuncion, AICP, President, American Planning Association

“The Freelancers Union, on behalf of our 500,000 members and the 56.7 million freelance workers in the United States, strongly endorses this bill and the opportunity for recovery it promises to creative workers. Artists are over three times as likely as the rest of the workforce to be independent or freelance workers and have been hit disproportionately hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Government investment in creative work to help our communities, such as it outlined in this bill, will support the lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans and help our communities thrive.” 

– Rafael Espinal, Executive Director, Freelancers Union 

“Among some of the hardest hit industries during the COVID-19 pandemic was the creative sector. In Albuquerque, Mayor Tim Keller and his administration recognized this early on and invested local funds to boost the local creative economy and quickly felt the positive impact it had on the community. On a federal level,  the Creative Economy Revitalization Act will invigorate creative workers, as well as communities across the country, with thoughtful compensation to make their work and talent accessible for all to enjoy. With great pleasure I support this initiative and with passion I encourage its acceptance.” 

– Dr. Shelle Sanchez, Director of the City of Albuquerque Department of Arts & Culture

“Millions of artists and creative workers have lost jobs during the past year. In Native communities, the loss of income and work has been dramatic with shuttered arts and cultural venues, cancelled festivals and gigs, and rescheduled fairs and events. The Creative Economy Revitalization Act will provide a lifeline to artists and the creative economy unlike anything seen since the WPA of 1933. Getting artists and creatives back to work creating public art is critical, and there is no greater power than the arts to unite, heal, and empower people and communities.”

T. Lulani Arquette, President & CEO, Native Arts and Cultures Foundation

“The National Alliance of Community and Economic Development Associations (NACEDA) is happy to support the Creative Economy Revitalization Act. We found most compelling that this Act would support creating local projects that tell community stories and bring forward community identity, particularly in the places, and among the people, most impacted by the pandemic.” 

Frank Woodruff, Executive Director, National Alliance of Community and Economic Development Associations

“We are very excited by the legislative efforts underway to help America’s struggling creative workforce, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the early twentieth century. After fighting cuts in arts funding during the prior administration and battling a pandemic that devastated the creative economy, we creators are truly heartened by Congress’ renewed focus on investing in arts and culture.”

– Douglas Preston, President, Authors Guild 

“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 this bill 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.”

– Nolen V. Bivens, President and CEO, Americans for the Arts  

“The Get Creative Workers Working coalition has been pushing for federal creative workforce recovery policies like this for over 15 months. Our national policy platform, much of which is echoed in this bill, has been endorsed by over 2,300 creative businesses and creative workers and over 110 Chambers of Commerce. This bill is crucial to the future success of the creative economy, a $919 billion economic backbone of every American community. The creative economy is in desperate need of sustained investment to put creative workers back to work, restart the engines of hundreds of thousands of small creative businesses, and boost associated industries like travel, tourism, and hospitality..”

– Erik Takeshita and Clay Lord, co-leads, Get Creative Workers Working Coalition 

“Be An Arts Hero/Arts Workers United whole-heartedly endorses this legislation enacting relief, recovery, and investment in the creative economy and its workforce.  We herald the bold and decisive leadership of Representative Leger Fernández to address the needs of the 5.2 million American Arts Workers who contribute $919 billion to this country's GDP.  BAAH/AWU was forged in the heat of the COVID-19 crisis, addressing the pandemic's devastating impact on our sector and its workers. There is no American economic recovery without a robust Arts & Culture recovery, and any legislation that incorporates the needs of this cornerstone economic sector receives our enthusiastic endorsement.”

– Jennifer Makholm and Carson Elrod, co-founders, Be An Arts Hero/Arts Workers United