The issue of withdrawing both government financing and support for the National Endowment for the Arts provided the nation with headlines some years ago at the time of the Congressional “Culture Wars” during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. The NEA, after much ado, survived! Yet here we are again with the same issue being bandied about with our new president propagating today that the NEA needs be eliminated to help reduce the nation’s fiscal deficit.
To address this issue and its current context I am quoting from a Post that I authored and posted on the Huffington Post during the last NEA crisis in October 2012. It continued much as follows:
The suppression of the NEA and the NEH (the National Endowment for the Humanities) would be a cultural and spiritual disaster for the nation. The arts and our respect for and nurturing of the arts are key to our lives as Americans. The arts help define our lives and are essential to an aspect of America that has always run deep and strong in our spirit: our willingness to go beyond the rote and routine, to define new dimensions in ourselves, giving us new vistas of entrepreneurship and confidence to accept risk because we have been tutored in creativity and its wonders. Please understand I do not say this idly. During Ronald Reagan’s presidency, I served on the National Council of the Arts as one of President Reagan’s appointees. President Reagan fully understood the importance of the arts in relation to the formation of the nation’s character. He understood that the NEA was the nation’s badge of honor in support of the arts. He understood that his administration would be judged in meaningful dimension by his support of the arts through his support of the NEA. From the outset of his presidency he was personally engaged in supporting the NEA, and he appointed a close associate, Frank Hodsoll as its chairman. Hodsoll performed brilliantly and had open access to the White House. In simple economic terms how we often fail to understand the leverage the arts have had on entire communities, and how they further the economic well being of the nation. One need only consider the beneficial gentrification of entire neighborhoods, once close to the abyss and entire towns and cities whose character has been transformed by the cluster of artists and their infrastructure that gathered to take up residence and to form communities of skilled artisans. Not to mention the millions of museum visitors and the hundreds’ of thousands of Americans in gainful employment in managing and operating these treasured institutions. The wonderful sprawl of art galleries, concert halls, theaters and on. How diminished our lives would be without them. By supporting the NEA our Government shows clearly that it understands that the arts are part of our heritage and their sustenance and support is an inherent responsibility to those elected to the bar of the nation’s leadership.
-An aside. The annual fiscal budget of the NEA is $149 million. Boeing’s anticipated billing for “Air Force One,” the president’s jet which is being replaced, is in excess of $1 billion!