NEA chair Jane Chu. Photo: John Moore.

Foundations Denounce Trump’s Proposal to Eliminate NEA

The leaders of eleven foundations have signed a joint statement that condemns President Donald Trump’s plan to eliminate the National Endowments for the Arts. The cultural figures claim that defunding the agency will “end valuable direct investments in our local communities” and “dismantle tremendous partnerships with philanthropy that have strengthened our country.”

Released last month, Trump’s official 2019 budget plan says that the NEA and NEH should begin to shut down next year and that the administration “does not consider NEA activities to be core Federal responsibilities.” It also argues that there are enough “non-Federal sources for funding for the humanities.” According to the foundations, this is not the case.

“Federal agencies are charged with serving all Americans in every community; no private philanthropy has the resources or the infrastructure to do that,” the statement reads. “Foundation dollars are meant to be risk capital; public funding exists to bring tested interventions to scale. Government is responsive to voters through election cycles; foundations are charged with thinking across longer timelines.”

The NEA’s budget is approximately only 0.004 percent of the total federal budget. According to its 2016 fiscal year report, the agency awarded nearly 2,500 grants to every Congressional district throughout the country that supported 30,000 cultural events and more than 3,000 exhibitions, which took place in 2017. In its first round of grants for 2018, it awarded 936 grants, totaling more than $25 million, to various organizations.

This is Trump’s second attempt to zero out funding for the agency—he first revealed his plans to shutter the NEA in March 2017. In order to protect the agencies from the ax, arts advocates can do a number of things such as call their representatives, start a petition, or attend the upcoming Arts Advocacy Day, which will take place in Washington, DC, on March 12.

Signatories of the statement include James E. Canales, president and trustee of the Barr Foundation; Patricia E. Harris, CEO of Bloomberg Philanthropies; Phillip W. Henderson, president of the Surdna Foundation; Diane Kaplan, president and CEO of the Rasmuson Foundation; Earl Lewis, president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Shawn D. McCaney, executive director of the William Penn Foundation; Rip Rapson, president and CEO of the Kresge Foundation; Jennifer Ford Reedy, president of the Bush Foundation; Douglas Bitonti Stewart, executive director of the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation; Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation; and Kate Wolford, president of the McKnight Foundation.