Trump’s first budget plan proposes to take a sledgehammer to the National Endowment of the Arts, Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2016, the budget for all three was just under 300 million, making up a mere .006 percent of the federal budget and costing U.S. citizens 0.92 cents per year -- less than two postage stamps.
While there are several steps before funding can be cut, what happens if there isn’t enough pushback and Trump succeeds? What does this mean for the arts and the artistic opportunities available in our Twin Cities community?
“By eliminating this funding, the administration is waging war on free expression,” says Britt Udesen, executive director at the Loft Literary Center.
One program at the Loft that will be impacted is Poetry Out Loud, a national teen poetry competition that helps students master public speaking skills and build self-confidence. The Loft also offers scholarships so their classes, manuscript critiques, and conferences are accessible to more writers. These offerings may not be lost entirely if the NEA is defunded, but they will be impacted.
While MPR is fortunate to have generous member support, the funding CPB helps them provide distinctive programming, which includes fact-based fair and balanced journalism and editorially independent news and information. Funding also enables local public radio stations to broadcast their national programs. They are well aware how the loss of this funding will impact Minnesotans.
“We believe that free access to trusted information is essential for healthy communities and a functioning democracy. Every citizen should be inspired and have free access to great art, including broadcasts of world-class performances from across the state and around the globe,” says MPR president and CEO Jon McTaggart.
Another key factor in all this: jobs. President Trump has promised to create more jobs, but if he eliminates the NEA alone, he’s taking 4.8 million job out of the economy.
“Nonprofit arts and culture organizations contribute to the vibrancy of Minnesota’s economy and quality of life, and make our state a magnet for jobs and businesses,” says Sheila Smith, executive director of Minnesota Citizens for the Arts. “... arts and culture organizations are important employers and economic engines."
The general operating support that the Loft receives not only allows them to offer more programs, it is part of how they’re able to employ over 400 writers every year to teach creative writing classes. Creative Minnesota and Minnesota Citizens for the Arts recently released a study, showing over 100,000 people work in artistic occupations in the state of Minnesota, which is the highest concentration of artists in the Midwest.
“The NEA has been a trusted steward of free thought and free speech in the form of artistic expression for half a century," says Jennifer Dodgson, Loft program director. "Do we really want to see all that disappear?”