Proposed Cut to the NEA

Changing Times for Art?

NEA, NEH and Public Broadcasting?. 

Among the many changes that have occurred since our last newsletter was sent out in late November, Art Space Vincennes as part of the larger art world is particularly concerned with this development:  The federal budget proposal recently put forward by the current transitional team calls for the complete elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the privatization of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

Power of These Organizations
In 2016 the NEA and NEH each received merely .003% of the federal budget, or $148 million dollars, according to the National Endowment.  The small .003% of the NEA’s portion contributes to the national economy $698 billion dollars or 4% of the GDP;  plus it enables recruiting volunteer efforts for events and non-profit organizations.  That seems like an excellent deal! See chart above for more detailed information about the NEA.
I think an investment of $148 million that adds $698 billion to the country’s GDP is quite effective business.  Eliminating the NEA and NEH would impact many culture providers, individuals as well as organizations that rely on the funding.  NEA and NEH money democratically flows through state channels that demand in-kind and dollar contributions before any project is eligible for a grant.  I have voluntarily participated on both State and Regional panels. I have witnessed how IAC funding goes to substantial and worthwhile projects after a rigorous review selection process.
But enough with the business model. There are many other benefits that are less tangible, but essential to a civilized society.  In Vincennes, the School of Humanities has annually sponsored professional Shakespeare performances of theater at the University Shircliff Humanities and Red Skelton Centers.  The Shircliff Art Gallery has received IAC funding for many years for part of its excellent gallery program budget.
We know that the arts are essential to the well-being and quality of life of our communities.  They touch us in ways we do not realize.  Both the NEA and NEH have contributed to NPR and Public Television to offer excellent programming with local, national and International news that are nearly impossible to find in the media anymore. They also bring educational content and entertainment not found on the commercial channels. The information that NPR provides, unlike any commercial station, is thoughtful, relevant, global, and informing. They help Americans to become more educated and discerning, and therefore better stewards of our Democratic Republic.
Local Example Working For You
The three art galleries on Main Street have helped to boost energy on Main Street. Their individual and cooperative efforts with the First Friday Art Walk events worked in tandem with Frontier Oil, INVin, the city and other organizations.  Within just three and a half years these actions have begun to reverse decades of decline.  The trend is now a renewal of the city’s valuable assets: the stabilization of historic buildings downtown, the “Loft  Program”, the River Walk (an idea on the plans for forty years), the Facade Program Grant Request. Additional plans are in the works to make it easier for people to park and visit Main Street, hang-out, shop, and socialize in a stimulating, fun and comfortable environment. All of which will help encourage new businesses to invest downtown and upgrade and maintain the historic architecture there.  In the case of the three galleries, while we have not applied for IAC Grants, many of the artists we show have had such grants that enabled them to develop their work.  The point of our story is the arts have led to tangible improvements even with so few resources. Success is not always measured in just dollars and cents. Success comes through the energy and experience the arts provide as well. If resources are maintained, the arts can turn things around even more.
So Why the Concern?
Without the support from the NEA, NEH, and Public Broadcasting, we shortchange ourselves.   Many local art establishments that have made differences throughout Indiana and the midwest will disappear. Without art, we may face another decline in our city.   In history, the people most feared by leaders of totalitarian and fascist governments were surely the artists, writers, and educators, who add a critical check and balance from the people to leadership when their government could not or would not supply it.  Dictatorial governments have determined what type of art is allowed and not allowed. They have used artists to create impressive facades to cover their motives.  They have used art as trophies to aggrandize the leaders or impose their standards and laws.  It is important to keep a watchful eye on what our current leadership is doing with the move to eliminate the NEA, NEH and Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  How does this proposed cut relate to recent actions against the news media? More importantly, we have to ask “Why?” especially when it comes to the arts, writing, and journalism.

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