Museum Leaders Speak Out Against Proposed Elimination of Funding For National Endowment for the Arts

Thomas J.  Campbell
Thomas J. Campbell
(Metropolitan Museum of Art)
  • Sculpture, American Embassy in Berlin, Germany.

    Sculpture, American Embassy in Berlin, Germany.


The Hill first reported in January that the National Endowment for the Arts is under threat, again. With a 2017 budget at $149.8 million -- the NEA is a tiny fraction of federal spending -- the 52-year-old agency has been subjected to budget cuts and threats of elimination before. It has also long been a symbolic and recurring target of conservative agendas. 

Los Angeles Times reports, "The latest attack comes from two groups, the Heritage Foundation and the Republican Study Committee in the House of Representatives. They jointly recommend that President Trump eliminate the NEA and its companion agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities, in the new White House budget."

Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, on Saturday released the following statement: "Abolishing the NEA would have disastrous consequences for the arts and for communities across our nation.  Funding for the arts is quite simply the lifeblood of the culture of our nation.  It supports not just artists, it strengthens communities, large and small, across the nation on a daily basis, and it helps to support the cultural and educational achievements for which today's society will be remembered many years from now."

A decision has not yet been announced by the White House on NEA or NEH funding. The 2018 fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Ahead of the release of a formal budget plan, arts leaders are speaking up for continued federal support for the NEA (and NEH) which provides grants in every state, assisting a vast range of arts programs in urban and rural communites.

"It is the mark of a great democracy to support the arts, which are an expression of what makes us human," the Association of Art Museum Directors wrote in Janaury.

Laura Lott, president and CEO of the American Alliance of Museums recently stated that "these agencies play a uniquely valuable role in helping make the arts and humanities accessible to every American."

The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) has organized a group of over 350 arts profressionals and students to take part in the ninth annual Museums Advocacy Day, February 27–28, in Washington, DC, where they will present Congress with powerful research and stories on the economic, educational and community impact museums make locally and nationally.

Norman Burns, the president and CEO of Conner Prairie in Fishers, Ind., wrote in the Chicago Tribune: "Today more than ever before, museums are uniquely positioned to help bring diverse communities together by serving as safe spaces to have difficult conversations and shared experiences. It is this type of open and constructive dialogue and interaction that fosters engaged citizens and helps build bridges across cultures and generations."

Burns suggests that those who value the NEA and NEH voice their concerns to members of Congress, and engage with Congressional staff on social media. Start trending: #SaveNEA #SaveNEH

American Alliance of Museums will have "advocates travel to Washington for a day of issue briefings on Feb. 27, followed by a day of visits to Congressional offices on Feb. 28. In meetings with legislators and staff, they will advocate for federal agencies, such as the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the NEH, and the NEA, that support the work of museums. They will also urge Congress to protect the full scope and value of the charitable deduction in any tax reform legislation."

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