Donald Trump’s determination to slash and suspend federal funding for the National Endowment of the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting are one of his many atavistic goals as President to curtail Federal spending by $10.5 trillion over the next ten years.
The Old Post Office Pavillion building on Pennsylvania ave. in Washington, in hindsight, seems to have foreshadowed the eschewing of the cultural agencies. The Old Post Office was home to both the National Endowment of the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities until 2014, when it was handed over to Trump through a 60-year lease. It would not be far fetched to say that cutting funding for the arts in America would make little change to the Federal budget, but would be devastating to the country’s art community. Trump’s newly appointed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon Mobil defended funding for the culture funds. One of America’s first blockbuster exhibitions, and considered by many as the cultural tone of the 70s, “Treasures of Tutankhamun” opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and travelled to six American cities. The National Endowment of Humanities helped fund the organization of the show and to make the exhibition accessible to the public. Exxon Mobil was the corporate sponsor of the exhibition, when Rex Tillerson was at the helm of the company. The Treasures of Tutankhamun travelled from 1972-1981 and forever changed the way museums attuned to temporary exhibitions and they have not looked back since.
The National Endowments both receive $148 million per year; the public broadcasting corporation receives $445 million annually. The total amount of funding for all three agencies amount to less than one tenth of one percent of federal spending. The numbers become more palpable when you break it down to cost per American to maintain the two endowments and the broadcasting corporation. It costs each American a total of $2.29 to fund all three. To cut these from the federal budgets would make little change to individual Americans, but the consequences of ending the funds would be a very loud indication of deterioration of culture not only to Democratic members but the developed world as well.
Cultural art centers large and small, are intrinsically tied to the idea of identity; that of a city, a state, or country. Museums are often national entities and have over time, become associated with the establishment of new nation states. Trump and his loyal conservative following may consider funding these cultural agencies a frivolous waste of Federal dollars, but these dollars are what enable artists to push boundaries and explore new ideas, furthering our encompassing knowledge of our place in the world; analyzing our past and always examining our future.
Image: New York Times