Theater, dance, music, painting. Whether you are a participant in the arts or someone who enjoys them, it is indisputable that creative and performing arts provide our nation with culture.
The opportunity to watch a theatrical performance or attend an orchestral concert should not be a privilege, it should be a right. This is the mindset behind the National Endowment for the Arts, a 52-year-old independent federal agency which supports arts endeavors across all 50 states and every U.S. territory. Their mantra affirms everyone in this country deserves equal access to the arts regardless of socioeconomic status, age or handicap.
Among the NEA’s proudest accomplishments, according to their website, is their ability to reach previously underserved areas, such as rural towns or inner cities. Thanks to the NEA, a non-profit organization may apply and receive a grant for a project which nurtures creativity in the community.
Unfortunately, the NEA is now under threat of being cut from President Donald Trump’s newly proposed 2018 budget. This would be disastrous on multiple levels: For one, the NEA supports almost five million jobs. The contribution of the artistic workforce, combined, comprises 4.2 percent of America’s gross domestic product, not to mention that $600 million worth of matching funds are generated annually by the NEA alone.
It goes without saying that cutting the NEA does not make any financial sense, since the money the federal agency is allocated, at the moment, is only a tiny sliver of all U.S. government spending. In short, it is a drop in the bucket, hardly making a dent in our nation’s current budget.
It’s been proven through multiple studies that performing and creative arts enhance a student’s growth in and out of school K-12. With recent emphasis on standardized testing, when a school is low on funds, the first programs to go on the chopping block are art classes. This is especially problematic for poorer schools, who tend to be hit harder financially.
In an effort to uphold the more core subjects, such as reading and mathematics, extracurricular activities, such as theater, marching band and the like, fall by the wayside. This is an instance where the NEA is especially crucial, supporting free performances and reducing ticket prices so a child can be provided with a healthy amount of art exposure.
Over the years, the NEA has made close to 150,000 grants, totaling approximately $5 billion. If you’re reading this and believe the government should keep its paws out of areas that could be privately funded, it might interest you to know that a non-federal entity contributes nine additional dollars for every one dollar the NEA invests in an eligible nonprofit. These grants benefit the old and the young, the able-bodied and the handicapped, to ensure that all have the chance to participate actively in creative expression.
The NEA’s goal to raise public awareness and appreciation of the arts through engagement is necessary for the emotional and social health of our nation. For more information, visit arts.gov to read up on the NEA’s historical and upcoming contributions.
Doménica Castro is a first-year student majoring in theater. She can be reached at DC874612@wcupa.edu.