The Trump administration’s proposed budget for 2018 includes a number of cuts—including eliminating funding for the National Endowments for the Arts (NEA), an independent federal agency that financially supports various community-centered art projects.
The NEA invests in anything from cultural dance performances, pottery clinics for kids, and support for burgeoning painters and novelists. It particularly aims to engage with people who have little exposure to the arts—40% of NEA activities take place in high poverty communities.
If brought to fruition, the proposed budget cut could have significant and negative effects on the greater Boston area. The NEA funds many Boston programs for kids in kindergarten through high school, both in and out of the classroom.
In the Boston area, the NEA has helped fund cultural activities like the Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival, art therapy programs for children on the autism spectrum, and other programs designed to provide Bostonians with access to the arts.
For example, the SciTech High School Band of Springfield, who recently received press for earning a Commonwealth Award and performing at the state house, is financially dependent on the NEA. The school district likely would not have been able to fully support the band without federal funding.
Moreover, a number of Boston museum directors co-wrote a public letter, shared on Feb. 24, urging the government to continue its financial support of the NEA.
Supporters of the budget cut claim that private funding will more than compensate for the losses. But, even if this is true, impoverished communities—which do not have the private funds for extra art projects—could not reasonably compensate for the lost programs. These communities would almost certainly lose access to the arts.
It is important to note that Congress ultimately writes the 2018 budget, meaning that the proposals of the Trump administration could be disregarded. However, many Republicans have expressed their desire to cut NEA funding since the first term of the Reagan administration.
Under federal law, the NEA cannot engage in advocacy over the congressional budget; its administrators must remain silent as the program stands on its last legs. While Goldman Sachs and the NRA have virtually unlimited access to Washington, the arts are rendered near voiceless—relying only on the conscience of politicians.