Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The National Endowment For The Arts Could Be On Trump’s Guillotine

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In the weeks leading up to his inauguration, many have speculated about the measures newly-elected President Donald Trump would take in his first few days as commander in chief. According to a report from the Hill, Trump plans to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, an action that could have severe ramifications for culture in the United States.

Introduced in 1965 when Lyndon Johnson was president, the NEA has been means of providing government funding and support for various artistic endeavors. The grants given by the NEA affect a wide range of artistic practices and programs, from art museums to specific artists working on projects. If abolished, artistic expression would be struck with a severe blow.

Since art is a very popular way of voicing displeasure and protest, cutting the NEA would be the Trump administration's way of sending a message, one that says, "Your voice does not deserve to be heard." Trump may not understand the Arts since his taste of the arts include a $20,000 portrait of himself and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for being the host and producer of The Apprentice.

Artists of all levels of fame and walks of life would be affected by this action. Upstarts would be at a severe disadvantage because various passion projects they are trying to get off the ground could be stuck there indefinitely because they can't get the funding they so desperately need. Those such as popular musicians and other artists could be impacted also because noble causes that would benefit from government endorsement would go unacknowledged.

For instance, Robert Redford's own Sundance Film Festival began, in part, due to the NEA. Last year, the Monterey Jazz Festival tributed legendary producer Quincy Jones, another NEA-supported endeavor that wouldn't happen under Trump's presidency if this plan goes forward.

Supporters of Trump's supposed plan will argue that he's demonstrating a primary tenet of fiscal conservatism: cutting unnecessary expenses. Trump's administration has said they want to reduce the federal deficit by $1.05 trillion each year. By eliminating the NEA as well as the National Endowment for the Humanities and privatizing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the deficit would be reduced by a paltry 0.074 percent.

There have been those who have spoken out against some of the more provocative works funded by the NEA, such as Andres Serrano's controversial "Piss Christ" photograph. However, those who support the First Amendment must realize that a government suppression of the arts is a deeply troubling first step in what could become a movement against creativity and expression.

As worrisome as the possibility of an NEA defunding is, it is at least a small blessing that it has come to attention so early in Trump's presidency. Americans, be they liberal, conservative or politically unaffiliated, all have some sort of relationship with the arts and have likely been affected in some way by the NEA, whether they realize it or not. If the NEA is to be eliminated, it would be an issue that affects everyone in at least some way. He may have a book called The Art of the Deal, but we wish that Trump would know better about how to deal with art.



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