Donald Trump has been the President of the United States for just over a month, and we are already seeing and hearing many of the threats that he has made to slash funding in areas that he believes are unnecessary. The EPA, Medicare/Medicaid and public education have been some of the numerous areas of which Mr. Trump has called to cut the budgets. Recently, one area in particular–– Public Art––has taken the spotlight.

While the Trump Administration has not made any final decisions yet, and article from The Hill reported that the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) may be in jeopardy. These programs have had a long history of controversy, and are the latest attack of the Trump Administration’s agenda to “clean out the swamp.” While many people have enjoyed and benefited from these programs, many people have also believed them to be fiscally wasteful. It is no surprise that many people––the Association of Art Museum Directors and PEN America, among others––have been incredibly nervous about the cuts and have quickly denounced the effort. Petitions from Change.org and WhiteHouse.gov have been circulating rapidly on social media. The reason? To save the arts.

But is saving these programs truly necessary? Won’t museums will still function without it? Won’t donations help keep NPR and PBS afloat. Even organizations like Community Arts of Elmira will still be intact, right? So what’s the uproar?

The truth is, these programs may actually cease to exist. Even with donations and community support, grants and funds from the NEA, NEH and the CPB are truly what keep public art just that––public, accessible and in most cases, free. A petition from Poets & Writers states, “Put simply, the NEA is the single most important source of institutional support for the nonprofit literary field, which includes independent presses, literary magazines, book festivals, literary centers, service organizations and reading series. Without NEA support many of these groups would not exist.” Writing and literacy are only one of the areas that the NEA supports. In fact, the NEA, NEH and the CPB affect all kinds of public art, including education and public media.

Cutting these programs, started by President Lyndon Johnson, would affect thousands of educators, artists and non-profits. Despite the fact the he was once an actor, Ronald Reagan also attempted to slash funding and even eliminate these programs. Yet, even with these setbacks, the programs have remained. If they have been so “hated” by so many, then why have they remained? Because their budget cost–only $741 million–does so much good for so many people in the arts. This money brings communities together, gives the public a reliable news source and aids artists and their business or non-profits in staying afloat. What President Trump is failing to recognize is that the cost of these programs does not even make a dent in the national budget. They account for less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the annual federal budget. Instead of slashing this budget, the Trump administration needs to know just how important these programs are. Artists and those who benefit from these programs need to make their voices heard––it’s time to write to our representatives, sign petitions and advocate for these programs.

Alli Woodard

*Disclaimer:  The opinions expressed by the ArtWays bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Community Arts of Elmira or any person thereof involved. Community Arts of Elmira is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by bloggers and that information is subject change.

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