As a professional working in the arts and technology field, frequent headlines such as “What’s at Stake if Trump Kills the National Endowment for the Arts” or “Trump wants to cut the NEA and NEH” might have caused you a series of mini heart attacks over the past few months. Since the change in U.S. presidency, there has been much discussion and concern among the arts community about potential termination of government arts funding. However, on July 17th, the full House Appropriations Committee approved $145 in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for 2018. Although this was a $5 million dollar cut from the previous year and fell short of the $155 million recently requested from 40 senators, it is certainly a step in the right direction compared to what many feared based on President Trump’s proposal in March to completely eliminate both NEA and NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities Fund). This action taken on Tuesday now advances the proposal to the U.S. House floor for an ultimate funding decision to be made later this summer or fall.
The outspoken support the NEA has received to date to maintain funding from both individual artists, arts organizations, and lobbyists cannot be discounted. Hundreds of thousands of people across the country signed a petition organized by PEN to maintain the NEA and the NEH, successfully swaying government politicians from both major political parties to vote in favor of saving the organizations from President Trump’s defunding plan.
Although recent NEA progress made in Washington D.C. is encouraging, it does not guarantee funding for next fiscal year and beyond. Congress must still work to pass the proposed budget, and the Senate must still present their proposal, which is expected to happen sometime after Labor Day.
Wondering where funding from the NEA goes? It has made thousands of concerts, visual art, cultural festivals, and other projects and productions possible over the past 52 years since its creation in 1965. The Jazz Masters Fellowship, awarded to top musicians such as Miles Davis and Freddie Hubbard, is a product of the NEA. It funds the National Heritage Fellowship, a lifetime achievement award which honors between 10 to fifteen of the country’s top folk artists who dedicate their lives to perpetuating traditional art, such as Chicago-born Irish fiddler Liz Carroll. Check out AMT Lab contributor Justin Gilmore’s interactive map that shows who received NEA grants in 2016 and where they were located:
The NEA also leverages a variety of technologies to make both important information and an assortment of projects publicly available on the web. For instance, the NEA collects arts related data and reports out in a way that is visually appealing and easily digestible, such as a recently posted interactive map that allows users to view arts and cultural employment per state from 2001-2014. Additionally, it makes digitally based projects accessible across the country, such as the American Masters Digital Archives, which includes a variety of short form videos and podcasts of interviews with and features on important American cultural icons such as the one below with David Bowie.
Help ensure the NEA can continue to reach each corner of the arts by using your voice to help continue the momentum in D.C. You can easily request that your U.S. Senator meets or exceeds the $155 million funding request for both the NEA and NEH by filling out the customizable form developed by Americans for the Arts, which takes about two minutes. Additionally, Americans for the Arts has developed an Advocacy Toolkit, which allows you to request meetings with your local representatives and provides all the latest information relating to the status of NEA funding.