I hoped to not have to write you on this topic again, but the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (which supports NPR and PBS) are in danger. Earlier this week, the White House released their proposed budget for fiscal year 2019, which calls for a shutdown of these agencies the following year.
Please know that the budget as presented is an ideological framework that presents the White House’s priorities, and is not yet enacted. The final budget will be written by and passed by Congress over the next few months, which means that NOW is the most important time to act.
Combined, these agencies account for around 0.02% of the federal budget. However, more importantly than the dollars and appropriations, the NEA, NEH, IMLS and CPB represent the dynamics that make America great: our creativity, our diversity, and our commitment to culture. Each of these agencies provides the leadership necessary to propel us forward into an innovative, changing future.
The projects they support reach throughout the country into every Congressional district, regardless of blue or red or purple. From supporting an Appalachian music festival in Guntersville, Alabama to dynamic contemporary art along Atlanta’s BeltLine to 248 rural public radio and television stations around the nation, the impact of this leadership cannot be overstated. They provide the vision and framework that makes individual success in the creative industries possible.
But, if you are reading this newsletter, I am probably preaching to the choir. You can probably cite the economic impact of arts investments in your community, share inspirational stories related to arts education, and host thoughtful conversations about quality of life. We need you to make your voice heard.
As someone invested in the arts as a vital aspect of society, here are a few actions you can take right now.
Arts Advocacy Day. The national Arts Advocacy Day will be held in Washington, D.C. on March 12-13. South Arts is a proud Co-Sponsor and will have some of our team there along with hundreds of other supporters from around the country. If you can make it, please visit the website for more information.
Contact your legislators. Your Senators and Representatives have the “power of the purse.” They will write and pass the final budget, so it is critical that they hear from constituents about priorities. Share your stories expressing the impact of federal dollars and leadership in communities large and small throughout the country. The most impactful ways to share your priorities with Congress are through direct communication – meeting with them or their staff in person or a direct phone call. Emails and social media are also helpful, fast ways for constituents to communicate with legislators. And please encourage any appropriate colleagues, constituents, and stakeholders who understand the public value of the arts to do the same. This helpful tool can assist you in finding the contact information for your elected officials.
Keep up with the Americans for the Arts Action Fund. Please consider subscribing to and, if you can, supporting the Arts Action Fund. Their newsletters contain helpful tips for communicating with legislators and stakeholders, the current status of the budget, and other pertinent timely actions. They have created a very fast and easy tool to send customizable emails directly to your legislators.
I am confident that the support from citizens in the South will be loud and influential. Thank you for being part of the South Arts family and for sharing the vision that the arts are one of our core values as Americans.
Suzette M. Surkamer