Last month, President Donald J. Trump released “America First,” a blueprint for the upcoming budget, which proposed heinous cuts to various government organizations such as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts.
At the expense of these programs, the president’s blueprint also calls for an increase in spending for defense and includes resources to build a wall on the Southern border of our country between the U.S. and Mexico.
Since the arts have been a long-time go-to for budget slashes from the federal budget to local school system budgets, this came as no surprise.
The NEA takes up a grand percentage of .004 percent of the federal budget. This small percentage is hardly a reason to cut it for unnecessary funding. So, the reason it is on the chopping block cannot be because it takes up a significant percentage of the budget. This leads me to believe that this is not an issue of money, but that President Trump and his team simply do not see the arts as a worthwhile investment.
Not only is this budget proposal an attack on the arts, but an attack on what the NEA stands for, which is giving all kinds of Americans opportunities to participate in the arts and use their imaginations.
But simply exposure to the arts is not the only reason to continue funding the NEA.
According to arts.gov, 40 percent of activities supported by the NEA take place in high-poverty neighborhoods and 36 percent of grants go to organizations across the country that access under-served populations such as veterans, people with disabilities or those in institutions.
So why should you care?
Because even locally, the NEA’s federal grant money can be seen at work. A fifteen minute drive down I-26 is the International Storytelling Association in Jonesborough, Tennessee, a cultural center that has been awarded a $30,000 grant for 2017 to support the folk and traditional arts.
Other programs awarded money in Tennessee include the Knoxville Museum of Art and the Blues City Cultural Center in Memphis, among others.
I’m not saying that these programs and the arts as a whole will immediately disappear if the government suddenly eliminates them, because the NEA does not receive all of its funding solely from the government. But I am asking, if at first it is our funding for the arts, what is next?
The arts enrich our lives and foster creativity. They are not disposable.
To learn more about the National Endowment for the Arts or to see how you can support these programs, go to arts.gov.