Defunding three national arts programs could hit us where we live


The National Endowment for the Arts knows adversity. Ronald Reagan tried to abolish it in 1981; congressional Republicans, apoplectic over Robert Mapplethorpe, took their shot in 1989. So when The Hill reported last week that the new Republican administration plans to cut funding for the NEA and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and to privatize the Corporation for Public Broadcasting—programs that drew less than $750 million, combined, from last year’s $4 trillion federal budget—girding for battle felt all too easy.

“The loss of funding would be grave for us and the communities we serve,” says Christina Barr, executive director of Nevada Humanities, the nonprofit that draws on NEH funds to provide cultural and educational programming. But she remains hopeful: “There’s an incredible bipartisan support for these agencies … None of these (budgetary) proposals have ever passed through Congress and the Senate. I don’t see why that would be any different this year.”

Flo Rogers, president of local National Public Radio affiliate KNPR, advises a “keep calm and carry on” stance. “The single best thing someone could do if they care about public media? Invest as an individual member of your local station to make sure something you value is funded,” she says.

And former Neon Museum director Danielle Kelly, who has written several successful NEA grants, states her support in fire. “Was the once-great America, to which we are now supposed to be returning, absent of art?” she asks. “The mere suggestion of eliminating the NEA is a strike at the soul of American identity.”

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