Art in America

Foundations release joint statement against Trump’s plan to cut the NEA

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Children explore the Musical Instrument Museum's Experience Gallery, an interactive space where visitors are free to play many of the instruments displayed around the museum. (Photo courtesy of the Musical Instrument Museum, via the NEA)

A joint statement from 11 major foundations condemned the Trump administration’s plan to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts in the proposed 2019 budget. As they write, shuttering the NEA “has the potential both to end valuable direct investments in our local communities and to dismantle tremendous partnerships with philanthropy that have strengthened our country.”

The NEA, which has long been used as a political football by conservatives, made up just .004 percent of the federal budget, according to its 2016 fiscal year report. It has been in Trump’s crosshairs as an example of unnecessary government overspending since he first proposed axing the organization in his 2017 budget proposal. Despite the organization’s relatively miniscule strain on the federal budget and the services it provides for all Americans, the Trump administration “does not consider NEA activities to be core Federal responsibilities.”

The foundation directors, representing the Ford Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and Bloomberg Philanthropies, among others, disagrees. They themselves were brought together by the NEA seven years ago and jointly decided to fund ArtPlace America, a strong public-private collaboration which allowed them to fund communities of all sizes across the United States.

The joint statement also responds to Trump’s belief that private funding can fill the void left by the NEA: “Federal agencies are charged with serving all Americans in every community; no private philanthropy has the resources or the infrastructure to do that.”

As they unambiguously end their statement, “if we lose federal agencies like the National Endowment for the Arts, we will not only lose significant direct investments in communities across all 50 states, we also lose the infrastructure that brings us together as one United States of America.”

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