The NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) was established under Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965. Its purpose was to function “as an exaltation of the spirit.” Ideally, it would serve much as the first significant amount of federal funding for arts during the New Deal era. It would create more jobs in a trying economic time. But, since its inception, intense controversy abounds. This is an internal look at both sides of the NEA fight.
People like Stephen Collins, well-known actor and novelist, have done political advocacy as a means of saving the NEA. While he testified in front of a Congressional subcommittee in the early 90s with the likes of Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin, and Christopher Reeve, it would appear funding for the NEA is still in danger. The Trump administration intends to entirely eliminate the NEA. Both sides of this battle need to be addressed.
Supporting the NEA
Certainly, a number of well-known artists and actors will be on this side of the battle. They have seen their ideas and dreams funded through the grants and programs provided by the NEA. An article in the Chicago Tribune, which you can read here, discusses the reasons the NEA still needs people’s support.
The author writes that if you can name it, somehow the NEA was attached to its funding. He says the NEA funds all kinds of work be it safe, risky, or in between. He then lists some specific things that have received NEA funding: The American Film Institute, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, The Art Institute of Chicago, and Robert Mapplethorpe’s photography.
Two years ago, when the piece was written, the NEA had reached its 50-year anniversary. And at that time, it awarded the American Ballet Theatre, $100,000. The Ballet is a non-profit entity and was at a particularly vulnerable time in its continued existence. Without that funding it may have ceased to exist. Art never pays for itself at its inception. The author writes that would be an idea, “no strong, enduring country ever adopted.”
Those who support the NEA agree with Jane Chu, a former NEA chairwoman, “The arts are not a frill.” She says that they are, “nurturing American creativity.” Basically, without funding for the arts many tremendous artists would lose the ability and opportunity to create those phenomenal things that exist within them. Great books wouldn’t be written and daring movies would never be filmed. This is why people support the NEA.
Defunding the NEA
In an article written by Laurence Jarvik, for the Heritage Foundation (click this to read it), we see the other side of this battle. He has created a list of ten reasons to eliminate the NEA as Trump desires. These are his reasons:
- People will continue to support the arts without the NEA’s money.
- He sees the NEA as being a funding source for cultural elitist because one fifth of the NEA’s grants go to multimillion dollar art entities.
- Charitable gifts for the Arts are being discouraged by its existence.
- The quality of American Art is lowered by the presence of the NEA. He quotes Emerson, “Beauty will not come at the call of the legislature… It will come, as always, unannounced, and spring up between the feet of brave and earnest men.”
- Pornography will continue to be funded by the NEA.
- Politically correct art is promoted by the NEA.
- Resources are being wasted by the NEA.
- Reform is an impossibility in the NEA.
- Eliminating it will show Americans that Congress will willingly cut spending that has proven wasteful.
- Limited government, a US tradition, is disturbed by the presence of the NEA.
Now that you know both sides, you will have to decide where you stand. You can read more about the NEA here.