OnStage Guest Columnist
“The arts and sciences are essential to the prosperity of the state and to the ornament and happiness of human life. They have a primary claim to the encouragement of every lover of his country and mankind.” George Washington
Since the new administration has taken up residence in the White House, mention of eliminating The National Endowment for the Arts has been repeatedly discussed. So what does The National Endowment for the Arts do and why would its end affect not only the artistic community but others as well.?
The NEA was established by Lyndon Johnson in 1965 with the intention of nurturing creativity and promoting the Arts experience in this country. Money has helped struggling artists, sponsored smaller, yet viable Arts organizations, and made the Arts available to those who otherwise would not have the opportunity or funds to experience it.
While some argue that money has been channeled to exhibits that are controversial or not acceptable by some standards, others of us realize that the purpose of art is to challenge our perceptions, promote discussion, and encourage thought. On the other hand, performances have been brought to schools and multi-cultural artisans have been encouraged and promoted.
Last year, funding was appropriated for community-based public art projects, culturally diverse dance and art organizations, and aspiring playwrights, among others. Every artistic endeavor was supported, including writing, visual art, music, and dance, meant to enrich, educate, and inspire. It is difficult to imagine how one could fail to see the importance of the continuance of the NEA.
Finally, the money set aside for all of the above is a minuscule percentage of the government’s budget; recent estimates put it at 0.012%, about one hundredth of one percent. Compare that figure to the enormous benefits the funding provides for artists, Arts organizations, and the general public. The National Endowment for the Arts is a viable and much needed organization that should NOT be eliminated.