Ever since early January, when the Washington DC publication “The Hill” reported on plans by the Trump Administration to eliminate federal funding for the arts and humanities, RISCA and RICH (the Rhode Island Council on the Humanities) have heard from cultural advocates asking what they can do to help prevent such a thing from happening. During the past couple of weeks I have been involved in a number of conversations on this issue. Both Americans for the Arts and The New York Times have published important information regarding the situation, and I encourage you to review this material.
Our colleague Philip Horn at the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts has put together a statement that clearly and articulately states what many of us in the state arts agency field believe is the proper course of action at this time. I wanted to share his statement with you all.
Some of you have heard about or seen reports that the new Administration and the new Congress are intent on eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts, the Humanities Endowment and PBS. While we are deeply concerned about the well-being of the NEA, there does not seem to be any source clearly identified by the media that can be verified. Much of what we are seeing is the media reporting on other media reports.
Our association, the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, is already reaching out to key parties to learn about the administration’s agenda for the arts and the disposition of members of Congress. Clearly, the arts have enjoyed support from both sides of the aisle for many years. It would be unfortunate if the arts community declared itself in opposition to a new administration and Congress regarding a budget proposal that has not yet been made for the future of the NEA and the federal cultural agencies.
In the past, proposals have been made to eliminate the cultural agencies. These efforts have generated intense advocacy and, while cuts have been made in funding, the trend is upwards not down and the cultural agencies are still with us and stronger in many ways.
It is always appropriate and advisable to contact your representatives at the local, state and federal level to express your support for public funding for the arts and what this support has made possible in your community. At this time, it would be helpful to inquire if your representatives are aware of any effort to eliminate the cultural agencies.
I advise everyone to withhold judgment until there is a proposal. We need all our friends in leadership positions in government on both sides of the aisle and at all levels. It would not be helpful to alienate anyone based on premature assumptions.
So, as Philip suggests, it is (always) a good idea for you to contact your representatives to express your support for public funding for the arts and humanities. This is important in good times and bad. Beyond that, both the Humanities Council and RISCA will monitor the situation and make sure you know what is happening. Feel free to share your thoughts on this issue with me at Randall.Rosenbaum@arts.ri.gov, and (as always) let me know if there is anything we can do to assist.
Randall Rosenbaum, Executive Director, Rhode Island State Council on the Arts