It’s Just Macaroni and Cheese: Arts Funding to be Burned!

by Paula Newton March 16, 2017

Republican Presidents have long had complicated relationships with the arts. Image via

President Donald Trump released a $1.1 trillion budget outline today, which includes eliminating four independent cultural agencies — the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Trump is not the first President to go after these agencies, but he is perhaps the first to have a good shot at succeeding, considering the partisan make-up of the House and Senate (who have final say-so over the budget). He will need Congress to repeal the legislation that created them, reports the Washington Post.

The NEA’s budget last year was $148 million, or 0.004 percent of the total federal budget. On its website, the NEA posted (in part):

We expect this news to be an active topic of discussion among individuals and organizations that advocate for the arts. As a federal government agency, the NEA cannot engage in advocacy, either directly or indirectly. We will, however, continue our practice of educating about the NEA’s vital role in serving our nation’s communities.

Conservative political commentator George Will wrote this morning, “Distilled to its essence, the argument for the NEA is: Art is a Good Thing, therefore a government subsidy for it is a Good Deed. To appreciate the non sequitur, substitute ‘macaroni and cheese’ for ‘art.’”

According to the Washington Post, Robert Lynch, head of Americans for the Arts, an organization that was instrumental in helping to create the NEA more than 50 years ago, worries about small arts groups that face a daily struggle to stay afloat. Anyone who has ever worked with these agencies can reply with a loud and strong “duh!” The Americans for the Arts is also organizing a petition to send to the White House. To sign, go here.

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Area Woman March 16, 2017 - 15:54

Very different territory right next door: Canadians mulling over how to make real their vision of a modernized, plugged-in arts sector through a recently announced $88.5-million Arts in a Digital World Fund. The head of the Canada Council is the author of a 2009 book about the role of the arts in a democracy (translated into English as No Culture, No Future). I offer this comment (and tiny bit of global context) because we in Trump’s America seem to have ceased having a conversation with the world, and instead both left and right are corkscrewing into the ground. USA ain’t got this art swag online/IRL.


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