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Funding Forward

Executive Director's Letter
May 2, 2017

Perhaps as a result of the “Culture Wars” of the 1980s and 90s when the National Endowment for the Arts came under fire for funding controversial artists, some people assume that support for funding arts, culture, and humanities is a partisan issue championed principally by liberal democrats on the left. The latest version of the 2017 Federal Spending Bill shows a more nuanced picture. With the help of vocal supporters on the left and the right, the bill keeps funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting steady at $445 million and adds $2 million dollars to the NEA and NEH bringing the budget for each to $150 million (not much more than the $120 million cost of providing protection for President Trump in New York City and Florida). Several other agencies including the Institute for Museum and Library Sciences were also given small increases.

Arts and humanities have been attacked for being effete on the one hand, or politically extreme on the other. But the recognition of their value is shared (if not uniformly) across the aisle—in support of arts education, high art, community –based art, artists, and more. For example, with Republican Governor Larry Hogan’s support, funding for the arts in Maryland is at an all-time high. We are also fortunate that First Lady Yummi Hogan is herself a practicing artist and teacher.

This support recognizes the economic impact, and the value of the arts and humanities as a means to create understanding, explore our identities and ideas, develop critical thinking skills, encourage public discourse, and promote civility.

But let’s remember that we also have critics on the left and right. As advocates, we should diligently communicate with elected officials across the spectrum so they might have a broader understanding of the impact of government funding in these areas.

So, no complacency! The funding bill is expected to be signed by the president, but the 2018 budget is still very much in flux. With the early success of advocates, let’s keep the momentum going, keep a close eye on the process, and to provide leaders with the information they need to make sound decisions not driven by politics, party affiliation, or erroneous assumptions about who is and who is not benefiting from the work of the CPB, NEH, and NEA. You can find out more about the latest advocacy efforts with links to valuable information and action alerts on GBCA’s website.

Here’s to vigilance,

P.S. GBCA staff and board extend their deepest sympathy to the family, colleagues, and students of Lori Goodman. She was an incredible leader in dance and the community, and has left us too soon.

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