In recent news, (President) Donald Trump has announced plans to exterminate the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), as well as the National Endowment for Humanities (NEH), in an attempt to balance the Federal Budget. According to National Priorities Project, the Federal Budget in 2016 was approximately $3.871 trillion. According to their websites, both the NEA and the NEH spent around $148,000,000 within the budget, which is, according to Washington Post’s Philip Bump, is only 0.03% of the overall budget. Despite these statistics, Trump believes that these organizations should still be defunded, and even terminated.
The defunding of the NEA and NEH could lead to devastating consequences, especially for community-oriented
artists and organizations, as Dr. Marta Moreno Vega explains in her article entitled, “Eliminating the NEA Will Disproportionately Hurt Communities of Color”:
“Slashing federal art funding will not only have a disproportionate effect on organizations of color, it will also further limit access to funds at the city and state levels. Those communities with the most need for arts and culture programs stand to lose big from these measures.”
To put this idea into perspective, she highlights efforts made by the Caribbean Cultural Center (CCCADI). They had held an annual event, “Trade/itions: Trans-Atlantic Orisha Sacred Traditions,” last February, that attracted “hundreds of members of the African Diaspora from across the U.S. and the Caribbean.” There, they framed “Black sacred and cultural traditions as key elements in the movement for social justice.” Community gatherings, on that scale, would be possible without the held of federal funding — the NEA partially funded the event. Now, with the NEA under threat, community-based organizations and events will be in serious trouble. She provides further explanation:
“According to a 2011 research report by Holly Sidford for the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, the top 2 percent of American arts organizations with budgets over $5 million are those that receive significant foundation grants.
These organizations predominantly focus on Eurocentric arts. Very few organizations ‘rooted primarily in non-European aesthetics, or founded and run by people of color [have budgets of over $5 million].’ Only 10 percent of grant dollars benefit art groups that represent the ethnic and cultural diversity of the nation.”
These cuts extend beyond marginalized communities, and may effect state and city institutions. “Slashing federal art funding,” Vega writes, “will not only have a disproportionate effect on organizations of color, it will also further limit access to funds at the city and state levels. Those communities with the most need for arts and culture programs stand to lose big from these measures.” This means that schools who provide programs, as well as training for educators, that aim to enforce multicultural experiences, will be a victim.
“Beyond the financial implications,” Vega writes, “eliminating the NEA would exact a symbolic toll. Trump’s budget proposal clearly outlines, in his view, what aspects of human experience are worthy of our taxpayer dollars—war, yes; art, no. It also seeks to define who gets to speak, who has the right to culture, and who has a license to creativity. It silences and de-values many of the individuals that have built this nation.” Authentic representation of different marginalized communities — elite institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, and Lincoln Center only scratch the surface of the rich and complex narratives each individual artist holds.
The Asian American Arts Centre lived from 1976 to 2009. We survived, and were able to squeak by largely because of NEA funding, particularly the Expansion Arts Program — which got cut and, eventually, eliminate because of Senator Jesse Holmes. The program was the watchwork for who we are, and who we continue to be: a cultural institution deeply rooted in, and a part of, our community.
To quote Vega, “It is the responsibility of each of us to call, write, demonstrate, and stand up to the attempts to silence our freedom. We must speak louder than ever through our creativity, our art. Anything else would be an affront to our nation’s promise of embracing the full spectrum of human experience.”
The full article can be found here:https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-eliminating-nea-will-disproportionately-hurt-communities-color