Trump’s budget plans for presidency have reportedly surfaced, and man oh man are there some heavy cuts to some of the most important proponents of the arts in this country. According to The Hill, not only would the Corporation for Public Broadcasting be privatized, but Trump apparently intends to axe the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities entirely.
In an email to Fusion, a spokesperson for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) said they would not be “speculating on what policies the new Administration may or may not choose to prioritize or pursue.”
Fair. As it would happen, this isn't the first time the NEA has been the target of funding cuts: Back in 1981, Ronald Reagan planned to gut the program as well, until a special task force he compiled realized it was actually pretty important and beneficial.
But why is the NEA so important?
I mean, part of the answer only applies if you think the arts are an important part of society and driver of culture (which, hello). But if you're still listening, the NEA, founded in 1965, is the largest funder of the arts in the nation and has helped support some of the most distinguished creators our country has seen. There's a good chance you've read a book or seen a movie that exists in part because of the NEA.
Sponsorship money from the NEA has resulted in over 2,400 books, including Jeffrey Eugenides's Middlesex, Alice Walker's The Color Purple, and Oscar Hullos’ The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, all of which won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature. In fact, over 40 NEA Fellows have gone on to win the prestigious award. The Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines, which was involved in publications like Poetry, The Hudson Review, Kenyon Review, Southern Review, and The Virginia Quarterly Review, was the result of an NEA grant.
The American Film Institute was founded with funding from the NEA in partnership with the Motion Picture Association of America and the Ford Foundation and the iconic Sundance Film Festival was also initially partially funded by the NEA. The NEA National Heritage Fellowship has supported folk artists as well as indigenous and immigrant artists.
The NEA has also had a big hand in arts education, working with other federal agencies, state, and regional arts programs to bring arts to students from pre-K to 12th grade. It has also provided financial aid to those who cannot afford or do not have access to art, doing more for “inner city” areas than Ben Carson could ever hope to accomplish, and helping rural and tribal communities as well.
While it’s unsure if Trump’s administration will actually follow through on this plan to axe the NEA, cutting such a pillar for art in America would be a critical loss.