The art of Kevin Blythe Sampson

THE ART OF
KEVIN BLYTHE SAMPSON

1/23/11

Republicans' Budget Solution? Kill the NEA and Other Arts Funding, Of Course - ARTINFO.com


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A group of Republicans seeks to eliminate government funding to the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

By ARTINFO

Published: January 21, 2011
WASHINGTON, D.C.—A group of about 165 conservative GOP Representatives known as the Republican Study Committee wants to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. While the funding to these agencies represents a minuscule portion of federal spending, they are specifically targeted in a new bill announced yesterday.

The group claims that the bill, titled the Spending Reduction Act of 2011, is necessary to trim the deficit and will reduce federal spending by $2.5 trillion over 10 years, the L.A. Times reports. Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina and chair of the Republican Senate Steering Committee, also supports the plan, claiming in a statement to stand "against the wave of wasteful Washington spending."

In addition to cutting subsidies to the arts, the plan also promises to slash legal services to the poor, subsidies for public transportation, and U.S. support for United Nations research on climate change. No cuts to military spending are included in the bill.

The arts subsidies — classic scapegoats when it comes to Republican ire about wasteful government spending — are among the first items listed in the Republican Study Group document. The NEA and the NEH receive $167.5 million each annually, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting gets $445 million. This adds up to $7.8 billion over ten years — which, according to ARTINFO's calculations, represents roughly .003 percent of the 2.5 trillion that the bill is intended to save over that period.

This effort hearkens back to Republican attempts to abolish the NEA during the culture wars of the 1990s, when lawmakers cited cases of artists supported by the organization whose work they found offensive, most notoriously performance artist Karen Finley. The NEA survived, but almost all grants to individual artists were eliminated and the agency had its budget slashed by 39 percent.

Since its founding in 1965, the NEA has funded a wide variety of individuals and initiatives in all areas of the arts, including Chuck Close, the American Ballet Theater, the Joffrey Ballet, Charles Mingus's musical legacy, a collaboration between Philip Glass and Allen Ginsberg, and a nationwide Shakespeare tour by six regional theaters. In a speech on the 40th anniversary of the NEA and NEH in 2005, then-president George W. Bush said that "the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities have strengthened our democracy by supporting our nation's ideals, institutions, and emerging talents. The NEA has provided support for music and dance, theater, and the arts across our great country. It has helped improve public access to education in the arts, offered workshops in writing, and brought artistic masterpieces to under-served communities."

If the idealism expressed by a former Republican president doesn't run in current GOP lawmakers' veins, perhaps they could consider a more practical argument made by Robert Lynch, president of Americans for the Arts, who told the L.A. Times that federal investment in the arts helps to sustain 5.7 million arts jobs nationwide.

Republicans' Budget Solution? Kill the NEA and Other Arts Funding, Of Course - ARTINFO.com