Federal funding for the arts has been steadily on the decline for decades, and looks like it will only continue to drop. In his budget proposal for 2018, Trump has made it clear that he hopes to permanently shut down the funding for the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) and the NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities).
The NEA provides grants to nonprofit organizations that help fund private artistic endeavors and local organizations. A large percentage of the organizations it funds are ones that reach underserved populations, such as low-income families, people with disabilities, people in institutions and veterans. The NEH supports the preservation of and research in the humanities.
By no means is this slashing of arts funding new to us in 2017. It’s pretty much been occurring with every new budget passed by a president, no matter which side of the aisle. The exclusion of that would be George W. Bush, who managed to get a $20 million increase for the NEA in 2008. Unfortunately, this was the last true ray of hope the arts funding has seen in decades. After slashing them to begin his presidency, Obama eventually fell through on a promise of a 10% hike he promised back in 2012. The increases weren’t enough, and haven’t been enough in a while, to make up for inflation.
While the politicians who seek to end the federal funding for the arts believe that programs get sufficient funding from private sources, many artists and organizations believe otherwise.
Earlier this year, Chance the Rapper donated $1 million to the Chicago Public School System, primarily intended for the encouragement of arts. His seemingly small charitable act should not be overlooked. With the slashing of federal funding, the future of the arts will depend solely on private donations such as this.
The best shot we have at reversing the course of the arts funding in America is to use some of our time to research the many dynamics of the budget process, and to contact our representatives with an educated complaint and plea for them to show more support for the arts in Congress. Arts is a bipartisan issue and we should all come together, no matter which side of the political spectrum you fall onto, in order to collectively encourage a future for the arts.