Some may not have an appreciation for the arts. Only people who are cultured and have a refined taste understands the importance of the culture and the arts in any society. And America is rich in various artworks dating back to centuries ago. Until today, artists all over the nation are free to express their artistry and share it to everyone with the support of the government.
But all of that is about to change as it is about to be hit by budget cuts imposed by the new administration. President Trump reduced the budget of certain sectors he deemed aren’t as important as defense and national security where he plans to focus much of his time and efforts since assuming office.
If you’ve been following, or involved in, the visual and performing arts for any length of time, you’ll know that this isn’t the first time conservatives in the power have threatened to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts.
Ronald Reagan wanted to eliminate it in the early 1980s. At the end of that decade, Jesse Helms and other conservative members of the United States Congress attacked the NEA because it had given small amounts of money to artists Andres Serrano, who created a beautiful series of photographs that included one of a cheap plastic crucifix submerged in urine, and Robert Mapplethorpe, whose photographs included some that could be seen as homoerotic. One year later came the celebrated cases of the “NEA Four,” performance artists working separately who had received grants for controversial pieces.
So President Donald Trump’s recent budget proposal, which eliminates virtually all federal funding for the arts — not just the NEA, but the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — is nothing new to arts leaders.
It’s a battle they’ve waged before, and they’ve come away battered but not defeated.
This time, local arts leaders say, the threat feels different.
Even though the arts have faced the same challenges in the past, prominent people in the arts acknowledge the difficulties they are now facing and the possibility of the budget cut to really come their way. It does not help that many others do not also see their value in nation-building.
“Although government’s role in the arts must always remain peripheral, with individual creativity and private support being central, there is no reason why the things which the government can properly do in this field should not be done confidently and expertly,” the report reads.
The U.S. government has had a sporadic relationship with the cultural community. While Thomas Jefferson and other founders had strong beliefs in the value of art, there were long periods when Washington had little involvement, especially in the 19th century. In the 1930s, New Deal officials established the Works Project Administration, which supported everything from murals and theatrical productions to historical guidebooks. But the WPA was based more on job creation than on cultural patronage. “Hell, they’ve got to eat just like other people,” New Deal administrator Harry Hopkins said of artists who benefited.
While the debate over its relevance continues and whether or not the budget cut pushes through, the arts will be crippled and it will impact the country in a negative light.
In ways big and small, this impact is replicated all across the country, in cities and small towns, and suburbs alike. From Maize, Kan., to Reedsburg, Wisc., the arts bring communities together around an idea bigger than any one individual.
In short, these budget cuts make a determination – perhaps unwittingly – about who deserves the arts.
They fail to recognize that the arts are not a privilege. The arts are the beating heart of our humanity, and the soul of our civilization, a miracle to which we all deserve to bear witness.
We know the unique strength of our nation resides in our creative spirit, our willingness to innovate and inspire. We cannot allow that resource to wither or weaken. It is the core of who we are, and the key to what we can achieve.
It is disheartening to witness how only a handful has power in the country – power that they use as they see fit. While the nation’s leaders try to shape the future of the country as they know best, they overlook other aspects that are equally important to the nation even though they think it is of little relevance. We can only hope that all these changes we are witnessing now will benefit the entire nation over time and not just a handful of people whom the administration favors.