What this means for the creative world now that the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities are in peril
Plans for government spending have emerged suggesting that the incoming Trump administration will dramatically cut arts funding.
As reported by The Hill, a budget ‘blueprint’ circulated around White House staff and Trump’s transition team shows that the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities could be totally abolished. The entire federal spending budget could decrease by $10.5 trillion across the next decade.
It amounts to little surprise, given that Republicans have in the past waged war on the creative world. Ronald Reagan initially planned to drop the NEA when he first took office in 1981. Robert Mapplethorpe’s The Perfect Moment, which featured nude and celebrity portraits, flowers and explicit S&M images, caused uproar in 1989 when it came to a Washington D.C gallery. An attack spearheaded by Republican senator Jesse Helms and dozens of other politicians worked against the NEA to see the show scrapped. The outrage later led to a landmark obscenity trial against Cincinnati’s CAC. Helms also went after Andres Serrano for Piss Christ, a photograph of a crucifix in urine.
A study by the BEA found that, as of 2013, 4.74 million people were employed in arts and culture economy. The prospective plans also see funding cuts for the Justice, State, Commerce, Transportation and Energy departments.
The National Endowment of Humanities was founded back in 1965, and supports museums, libraries, university scholarships, book projects and public television. The National Endowment for the Arts supports artistic scholarships and public accessibility to the arts, as well as local creative community initiatives and programs across art, music, theatre and more. As Pitchfork reports, the popular video showing David Bowie talking about his work with Lou Reed was an NEA-funded project, as was Esperanza Spalding’s Manhattan Baryshnikov Arts Centre performance.
Suzanne Nossel, the executive director of PEN, said in an official statement that the speculative plans “are an outrageous abdication of the U.S. government’s proud history of support for groundbreaking research and creative endeavours that have served as engines of innovation and bolstered America’s stature as a haven for free thinkers and a global leader in humanity’s shared quest for knowledge.”
“The announcement that this is even under consideration casts a sinister cloud over our vibrant national culture, stoking fears that the Trump Administration aims to usher in a new Dark Ages in America. U.S. leadership and innovation in arts, culture, and the humanities are wellsprings of American greatness and the envy of the world,” she said. “This proposal sends shivers down the spine of all Americans who value research, scholarship, and creativity and who recognise the mortal blow that eliminating these vital agencies would strike at the heart of treasured sectors of our society.”
Movement on budget cuts is expected in the next 45 days of Trump beginning his presidency, with a full budget and analysis arrive in April, as the Hill reports. It’s important to note that this may not be the death knell for arts in the U.S just yet – the final word hasn't been dropped and won't be for another while – but we can expect a fight.