As the leader of the Walker Art Center, an arts institution created with major support from the federal government and launched by a belief that national investment in the arts is essential to the health of our democracy, I was extremely disappointed to see that the Trump Administration’s federal budget proposal, released on March 16, calls for the elimination of all funding for 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 (CPB). Without question, these agencies are critical to art organizations’ ability to serve their communities as educational and economic assets.
In particular, the NEA, NEH, and IMLS award tens of thousands of grants to organizations, schools, and artists in thousands of communities across the United States. They also have an incredible leveraging effect on other state, local, and private sources. The nonprofit arts industry generates $135.2 billion annually in economic activity, supports 4.1 million full-time-equivalent jobs in the arts and related industries, and returns $9.6 billion in federal income taxes. There has been a tradition of strong bipartisan support of these agencies over the decades, and with your help it can continue into the future.
As a longtime member of the Association of Art Museum Director (AAMD), I am proud to share with you a statement recently issued by the organization:
The arts are a shared expression of the human spirit and a hallmark of our humanity. Art touches people throughout their lives—from toddlers first learning about the world, to those with Alzheimer’s disease reconnecting with someone they love. Museums offer art programs to help teachers and homeschoolers prepare lessons, to train medical students to be better doctors, to ease the suffering of veterans with PTSD, and to share with people across the country the best of creative achievement. The NEA, NEH, and IMLS are essential partners in this work, providing grants to many types of nonprofit organizations and helping to bring the arts to every part of America, from rural areas to military bases to urban centers.
It’s also important to note that the arts and culture contribute more than $2 billion annually to Minnesota’s economy and support more than 104,000 artist and creative worker jobs in this state. The proposed elimination of the federal arts agencies would hit Minnesota even harder than other states because the arts are such a big part of our quality of life and sense of place. In fact, a recent study showed that Minnesotans attend the arts and create art themselves at a rate exceeding the national average.
Since arriving in Minnesota nine years ago, I have been proud that the Walker Art Center and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden offer a welcoming civic space for the public to not only be introduced to and be inspired by art we present but to also bring a multiplicity of perspectives into respectful consideration and focus. The elimination of the NEA, NEH, IMLS, and CPB would make it harder for the Walker to fulfill its mission to serve as a catalyst for the creative expression of artists and the active engagement of audiences. More importantly, it would be a step backwards for our great nation, which has long benefited from the federal government’s modest investment in the arts.
I urge Walker members, visitors, and arts enthusiasts everywhere to learn more about this issue by visiting Americans for the Arts. That link will enable you to easily contact your legislators to let them know right now that you strongly oppose the elimination of the NEA, NEH, IMLS, and CPB.
Your voice can make a difference in saving these important federal agencies and affirming that the arts are critical to the fabric of our society.