We all knew it was coming, but didn’t want to believe it. In his first federal budget plan, announced to the public yesterday, Donald Trump confirmed the proposal to scrap both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. These institutions were first introduced in 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, who recognised that any ‘advanced civilisation’ needs a thriving art world. Since then, all US governments have upheld these agencies, until now.
The combined annual budget for both agencies is $300 million, a tiny amount in proportion to the total $1.1 trillion allocated to public discretionary spending, but none the less paramount in supporting projects of artistic excellence in music, literature, art and academia.
Head of the NEA, Jane Chu, said that she expects the news to be ‘an active topic of discussion among individuals and organisations that advocate for the arts’. Indeed the announcement has already sparked significant outcry from members of art institutions across the US; Brian Ferriso, president of the Association of Art Museum Directors said that he is “sort of dumbstruck… I’m hopeful that Congress will take the time to say, ‘Hey, wait a second. We need these cultural elements in our society.'”
The NEA has faced threats of elimination in the past due to its support and funding of controversial artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe, which is not the priority of a conservative government in times of economic instability. It is now the task of art groups and legislators alike to prove the immense value of artistic contribution in society, and to fight against government censorship. Expect this protest to grow and continue.