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Trumping the Arts

Budget Wipeout of Government Funding

By: - Mar 16, 2017

Under President Donald Trump, who pledged to “Make America Great Again” his assault on the arts, culture and humanities rivals that of Attila the Hun.

The federal budget proposes massive increases for national defense balanced by the elimination of $300 million currently supporting the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) which, if approved by a Republican dominated Congress, will be eliminated.

There is also a proposed elimination of funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the Corporation for National and Community Services.

President Trump also proposed scrapping the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a key revenue source for PBS and National Public Radio stations, as well as the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Federal funding of the arts has long been regarded as advancing a liberal agenda.

The first order of business for dictators and totalitarian regimes is to censor or eliminate the media and encroach on critical thinking and dialogues encouraged by the arts and humanities.

Eliminating government support for the arts is just a part of the Trump agenda to defund environmental safeguards, health benefits for the old and indigent, and dismantle public school systems. These are just a few of the bullet points to destroy America as we know it.

Freedom of speech, dissent and unfettered journalism, Trump’s alleged “Fake News,” are cornerstones of democracy.

The vulgarian assaults by Trump and his followers, through the elimination of Federal funding, will not result in a disappearance of the arts and humanities. Primarily, government grants have been regarded as seed money. But government grants most often function as leverage for attracting corporate and private support. It is a means of identifying organizations providing excellent programming.

The loss of government support means that we as individuals are being asked to step up and make a greater commitment.

There are many of us pursuing careers and lives in the arts who work at this 24/7 mostly on our own dime. Nobody commits to a life in the arts with an eye on the bottom line. Some creators make it big while most do not.

Now more than ever we need your help.

The real message is do it for yourself. Try to image either a life without the arts or one with ever diminished resources. Think of theatre companies that opt not to do risky new plays or museums cutting back on exhibitions. Consider all the books and articles that won’t get published.

What’s left will be ever more centrist and generic. Arts organizations will only create and produce projects that pay the bills. If not eliminated the arts may be more conservative and irrelevant. There is also the prospect of a diminished but more radical and defiant movement of artists.

That may be appealing but what happens when emerging art contracts to a focus on agit-prop? Imagine the balance shifted from Apollonian to a steady diet of the Dionysian. When does it become a courageous act of defiance to focus on beauty and lyricism?

As Theodor Adorno wrote Kulturkritik findet sich der letzten Stufe der Dialektik von Kultur und Barbarei gegenüber: nach Auschwitz ein Gedicht zu schreiben, ist barbarisch, und das frißt auch die Erkenntnis an, die ausspricht, warum es unmöglich ward, heute Gedichte zu schreiben.

His statement is most often paraphrased as “There can be no poetry after Auschwitz.”

Do the math.

Conservatives argue that if people care enough the arts will survive.

Indeed they will. We have no plans to drink the Kool- Aid.

 Take 2 minutes now to contact your members of Congress and join the #SaveTheNEA campaign.