A Local Look at the NEA

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Brooke Dilling | @brookefrances

At the time of this posting, the Trump administration has proposed cutting $18 billion from the National Endowment for the Arts 2017 budget. This would be the lowest the NEA has been funded since the 1970’s. The Executive Branch’s 2018 budget proposal includes defunding the NEA completely. Translation: total elimination of an independent federal agency that has existed since 1965. The proposed Federal budget is currently in the hands of Congress to pass. Lawmakers have until Saturday: the government runs out of money unless they can pass legislation to finance federal agencies.

With a budget of $146,200,000, NEA funding is a drop in the bucket of our federal spending. Basically each taxpayer contributes $.46 each year to fund the NEA. Less than fifty cents. A year. Elimination of the NEA doesn’t even make a dent in balancing our Federal Budget.

Allow me to tell you a bit about the great things the NEA makes possible here in Denver each year.

In 2016, the NEA granted $3,134,600 federal dollars to Colorado arts and culture organizations including:

  • The Denver Art Museum--$70,000 in grant funding for their Women of Abstract Expressionism exhibit

  • Lighthouse Writers Workshop--$30,000 to support literacy programming for writers of all ages. This includes the Inside the Writer’s Studio programming which brings nationally renowned authors (both men and women) to Denver.

  • Dragon Boat Festival--$10,000 in grant funding to support a multidisciplinary cultural festival featuring traditional and contemporary Asian performances and visual arts

  • Children’s Museum of Denver--$10,000 to support arts engagement for children

If the NEA is eliminated, our local organizations will be hard-pressed to offset the funding loss through other allocations and grants. Organizations would potentially cut back on the artistic and cultural programs they are able to offer. This hurts all of us. Less art and culture mean less opportunities for learning, critical thinking, and deep discourse with one another.

But art provides more than just education and conversation. It’s also one of Denver’s fastest growing industries and an influential economic driver. According to the 2016 Economic Activity Study conducted by Colorado Business Committee for the Arts (CBCA) The Arts had an economic impact of $512.8 million in the Denver Metro area in 2015.  

How can you help to save the NEA? Become informed. Sign up for notifications through Americans For The Arts (AFTA). Attend a play, visit a museum, enroll in an art class. Better yet, call or write your senators and representatives. Stop by their local offices to share your opinion and bring your friends. At a recent AFTA advocacy day in Washington D.C., Senator Bennett, Representative DeGette, and Representative Polis indicated they would fight against defunding the NEA. Encourage our other senators and representatives to do the same.

The Arts matter to all of us. And The Arts are especially important to our local economy. We need arts funding in Denver. Eliminating the NEA will have significant negative consequences for Denver and Colorado. Tell us how you participate in local arts and culture.