arts + politics

What Does The Future Hold For Arts In America?

It’s been 100 days since Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States of America. Since his term began, he has threatened to cut an array of domestic programs -  among them arts, humanities and public media. As an arts advocate and employee of a non-profit media source, I am weary of what the future may bring.

In 1965 Lyndon B Johnson signed into effect the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities ensuring that "arts and humanities belong to all people of the United States" and recognizing the need to "achieve a better understanding of the past, a better analysis of the present, and a better view of the future." Since his time, a number of former presidents have threatened to cut the endowments, but none have succeeded.....until potentially now. It is the president's job to propose the budget, contingent on the approval of Congress.

So how much are we talking? The combined total of both endowments is about $300 million - that is under 1% of the 1.1 trillion dollar total annual discretionary spending. Individually, each endowment makes up approximately .004% of the total federal budget.

What does defunding the NEA, NEH and Corporation for Public Broadcasting signal to our communities? It would represent closing the door on celebrating human expression, and halt potential progress. Art is what makes us human after all. Federal funding does not typically cover the cost of a project, but it is important seed money that legitimizes fundraising initiatives and works as a call to action for the local public and private sector to join in. Thus, federal funding for arts, culture and media is critical for the health of an organization. NEA grants improve access to the arts and humanities in low-income and rural communities, thus playing a significant role in small, culturally specific organizations, often the most in need.