By Claire Fallon, huffingtonpost.com
President Donald Trump’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2018 arrived in the night, and it’s a doozy.
Arts advocates have particular reason to be outraged. The National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities are among 19 bodies slated to be defunded entirely under Trump’s proposal, along with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
When reports initially surfaced in January that the NEA and NEH might be targeted for elimination, arts advocates pushed back, noting that the two agencies combined only account for a fraction of 1 percent of the budget while providing irreplaceable support for local arts, culture and education programs around the country.
In fiscal year 2015, NEA grants reached every county in the country, many through partnerships. State and local arts organizations partially depend on federal funding to sustain accessible arts programs throughout the country ― not just in major metropolitan areas. The NEA targets roughly half of its grants to programs that will reach underserved communities through arts and literacy education, local theater and performance, and radio and TV broadcasts of arts programming.
Meanwhile, the NEH worked directly and with local agencies to support the preservation of American history and culture, funding projects such as the digitization of the Hellen Keller Archives and the preservation of aging wax cylinder recordings of Native American languages and song.
Weeks prior to the release of Trump’s budget proposal, arts advocacy groups scrambled to defend the institutions’ value, not only culturally but economically, as the funding also stimulates the arts marketplace.
The NEH supports “humanities work in small towns all around the country,” Stephen Kidd, the executive director of the National Humanities Alliance, told HuffPost in January. Whether the organization is providing crucial funding to local historical societies preserving pockets of American history, ensuring students have access to decades of newspaper articles for research, or helping veterans cope with war trauma through literature, Kidd said, “there really aren’t other funders out there that are supporting that kind of work on that kind of scale.”