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Published: Sat, March 18, 2017
Culture | By Elsie Buchanan

Trump Shows His Intent To Axe National Endowment for the Arts

Trump Shows His Intent To Axe National Endowment for the Arts

Wisconsin's 45-year-old humanities council could vanish and programs created to foster creative thinking in schoolchildren could be on the line if President Donald Trump's proposal to eliminate federal funding for the arts and humanities comes to fruition, local officials said Thursday.

Kristina Newman-Scott, director of culture for the state Department of Community and Economic Development, said state organizations receive $739,800 from the NEA annually, an amount matched by the state general fund.

Last fall the National Endowment for the Arts awarded nearly a million dollars in grants to 34 arts groups across the state, large and small. That represents one one-hundredth of one percent of federal discretionary spending.

The Corporation of Public Broadcasting now has a budget of $445 million, while the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities each have a budget of $148 million. "The notion of eliminating expenditures of tax revenue of less than 20 cents per citizen to support the arts is antithetical to the idea of a vibrant modern democracy".

"That's the thing that really is alarming about eliminating this agency", says ACTA director Amy Kitchener. Without the subsidy from the National Endowment of the Humanities, he said that same webinar would cost $300.

"To keep the lights on and to have a space, literally to do what we do, we need that funding", he said. If they weren't subsidizing these programs, we wouldn't be there. However, don't expect Republican congressman to save these programs; they've long advocated for their elimination.

George Tzougros, executive director of the Wisconsin Arts Board, noted Trump's budget "is only the beginning of the process". "There's not much of a replacement for that spark to additional contribution if the NEA grant is taken away".

Hollywood stars have also spoken out against the proposed cuts, with actor Mark Ruffalo denouncing it as "ripped from [Steve] Bannon's nationalistic playbook" and Julie Andrews calling it "mind-boggling" in an open letter published on CNN. "That negative stuff is going to happen, but it's not the whole story, and it's not even the biggest part of the story". But that doesn't mean they're not anxious about the survival of dozens of arts programs across the state, many of them serving immigrant and poor communities. The Essex Art Center is also a recipient of Mass Cultural Council grants. At the ceremony he called art "a nation's most precious heritage". More than $900,000 of that went directly to the Massachusetts Cultural Council, through a partnership grant, according to Greg Liakos, communications director for the council.

Though the cuts could be devastating for local programs, Tebaldi of Mass Humanities said he was erring on the side of caution. "At the same time, I think it's unlikely for all of these institutions to be eliminated". The budget, titled "America First - A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again", must pass through the House and Senate budget committees and a vote on the House and Senate floors in order to be adopted, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

"There has never been an administration like this one, so we don't know what to expect", he said.

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