By Rylee Seavers | Staff Writer
The White House unveiled President Donald Trump’s budget plan on Thursday, which proposes eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts. The budget, titled “America First – A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” must pass through the House and Senate budget committees and a vote on the House and Senate floors in order to be adopted, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The budget can be amended in the House and Senate.
The National Endowment for the Arts’ purpose is to promote equal access to the arts for all Americans. Its appropriation for 2016 was $147.9 million, which is .004 percent of the national budget, a majority of which went to benefit people with fewer opportunities to participate in the arts, according to its website.
“An advanced civilization must not limit its efforts to science and technology alone but must give full value and support to the other great branches of scholarly and cultural activity in order to achieve a better understanding of the past, a better analysis of the present, and a better view of the future,” reads a portion of the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965 which established the National Endowment for the Arts.
Some of the National Endowment for the Arts’ grant-making budget is awarded directly to states to fund local artists and art projects, while the rest is awarded directly to organizations, according to its website.
“The National Endowment for the Arts gives grants to organizations that very often make the difference in whether or not they will stay above water,” said Dr. David A. Smith, Baylor professor in the department of history.
Smith said outreach is the first thing these organizations will cut, meaning that they will no longer be able to have external programs like those in schools that expose children to the arts. Additionally, many small art activities will disappear in communities across the nation because they are no longer receiving National Endowment for the Arts funding, Smith said.
The Waco Art Center is one local organization that has been impacted by the National Endowment for the Arts through grants, said Meg Gilbert director of the Waco Art Center. These grants help the Art Center fund children’s program and various exhibits. The danger is, if congress approves Trump’s budget plan and abolishes the National Endowment for the Arts, the money would not be available for the grants that are vital to the Art Center’s operation, Gilbert said.
“I like to think that the mark of a successful community is a thriving arts culture,” Gilbert said.
The National Endowment for the Arts does have some support in Congress. On Feb. 15, 24 U.S. senators sent a letter to President Trump expressing their support for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, which would also be de-funded if the budget is approved. The letter says that the work of these organizations is vital to education and the economy within the United States.
National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu said in a statement on Thursday that they are disappointed in the proposal to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts because they see its funding has positive impacts in communities in every congressional district in the United States. Chu also said that the National Endowment for the Arts will continue to operate until a budget is finalized.
Smith said that everyone can benefit from experiencing the arts, and if the National Endowment for the Arts’ budget were to be doubled, there would still be things they could not do.
“Democracy demands wisdom and vision in its citizens,” The National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965 states. “It must therefore foster and support a form of education and access to the arts and the humanities, designed to make people of all backgrounds and wherever located masters of their technology and not its unthinking servants.”