National Gallery of Art gets $40 million for East Building repairs

By Jacqueline Trescott
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 31, 2009

When the Interior Department appropriations bill is signed by President Obama this weekend, the National Gallery of Art will receive $40 million to begin the repair work on the marble facade of the East Building.

Officials at the gallery, which will receive an overall appropriation of $167 million for fiscal 2010, announced in May that the 31-year-old addition needed a major renovation. The marble panels are tilting outward, and the gallery plans to remove all 16,200 of them and install new supports behind each.

The Senate and House this week approved the fiscal 2010 appropriations for the federally supported arts agencies and organizations. Worked out by a joint House-Senate conference committee, the final bill includes increases for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Smithsonian Institution.

The boost for the Smithsonian, which receives 70 percent of its budget from the federal government, brings its 2010 appropriation to $761.4 million. The museum and research complex received a base appropriation of $731.4 million in fiscal 2009, which was increased by $25 million, thanks to the Economic Recovery Act earlier this year.

With the president's signature, the Smithsonian will receive $20 million for the design and planning of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. It will get $12.6 million for the rehabilitation of the Arts and Industries Building, the Smithsonian's original museum facility that opened in 1881 and closed in early 2004 because the structure was ruled unsafe. The first phase of the repairs addresses the roof and windows.

Congress also approved $12 million for repair projects at the National Zoo, including the seal and sea lion habitat.

The NEA will receive $167.5 million for next year, an increase of $12.5 million over fiscal 2009. The legislation also permits the arts agency to add four members to the National Council on the Arts, bringing the total to 18 appointees. The voluntary panel gives final approval to distribution of grant money; in fiscal 2010, the agency will have about $138.7 million to give out.

The National Endowment for the Humanities also added $12.5 million to its appropriation, also bringing its funding to $167.5 million.

The Kennedy Center receives an appropriation for the upkeep of the building, which is a presidential memorial. The center's productions are underwritten by private fundraising, not federal money. In the bill, it received an increased in its repairs account from $15 million to $17.4 million.

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