In 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) was established by Congress. Since their establishment, the NEA’s funding and support “has given Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities,” according to their website. The NEA advocates for equal access to the arts in all communities across the country and partners with state arts agencies, leaders, and other various federal agencies. Over the past few months the news of Donald Trump eliminating the art and humanities agencies and defunding the nonprofit public broadcasting corporation has sparked quite a debate.
In many schools and communities, arts programs have been threatened by budget cuts over the years. Often times they are regarded as second tier compared to other community programs or activities (anyone who went to a high school where football is viewed as a lifestyle knows this). However, more recently this has become a serious issue when presented at the national level. Trump’s budget plan would completely eliminate the NEA, along with three other independent cultural agencies relating to museums and libraries, the humanities, and public broadcasting. Unfortunately, the NEA is in jeopardy, and the outcomes of the potential budget slash would
directly affect our cultural economy that is built on a system of federal stimulus.
Arts and cultural leaders have fought consistent battles over the years to receive substantial funds, but now they need to explain to the country that they need the federal dollars, that their $148 million budget is integral in making sure Americans have access to the arts nationwide. What many do not know is that 65 percent of NEA grants are given to small and medium-sized organizations that tend to support projects that benefit audiences that might not have access to arts programming. Similarly, 40 percent of NEA-supported activities take place in high-poverty neighborhoods. The NEA even supports military families through a military healing arts program and their grants can support free performances and reduced ticket prices for those who can’t afford to pay. They strive to increase the growth of arts activity in areas where the arts were previously underappreciated or where no arts programs where available at all, in places such as rural and inner-city communities.
Linda Moran, President and CEO of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, told Billboard, “Music and arts are essential to life and our humanity and he nurturing of our souls. Removing access to that which allows the exploration, discovery and development of one’s talents would be a travesty of epic proportions… Our future songwriters, musicians and artists must be fostered not ignored.” Especially for young children residing in inner cities, the after school arts program may be the highlight of their day. For senior citizens or military veterans, a poetry workshop may double as an enjoyable activity that can both help heal and provide inspiration. Subjects such as music, art, theatre, and literature contribute to de ning who we are as people. But are we moving in a direction where authorities in our society do not respect these artistic outlets?
The NEA cannot advocate for their budget themselves. If you believe in this federal agency, you can help by posting your own stories on arts.gov, expressing how the NEA is making a difference in communities and funding non-profits, schools, and state and local governments. The NEA remains open, but the President’s 2018 budget blueprint proposes the elimination of the NEA. Believe it or not, activities ranging from theatre after school programs, senior citizen dance classes, military veteran art therapy, and instrument lessons across communities, especially rural and inner-city, could unfortunately disappear sooner than later.