People For the American Way Foundation

Rural Arts Funding Threatened by the Trump Administration

Op-Ed
Rural Arts Funding Threatened by the Trump Administration
Sioux Falls Arts Council uses NEA Our Town grant to bring a 150 ft long mural to the Whittier neighborhood community. Photo by Nicholas Ward, Sioux Falls Art Council (Link)

The Trump administration’s recent budget proposal aims to take a sledgehammer to many critical federal programs, starkly revealing in dollars and cents which public needs are being threatened by the new administration.

Among the many proposed cuts to vital programs was the wholesale elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA): an independent federal agency which accounted for only 0.003 percent of federal spending in 2016. For America’s rural communities especially, the NEA is a valuable source of cultural connection and arts funding, and in many cases acts as a driver of local economic activity.

In a recent op-ed in The Hill, Natalia D. Macker—a Teton County Commissioner in Jackson, Wyoming, and a member of PFAW Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network—argues that any cuts to the NEA will disproportionately reduce the opportunities available to Americans living in rural areas. Without the funding that the NEA provides, access to the arts will be greatly diminished and could even disappear in some communities. She writes:

While great art will always be available to those who live in our nation’s big cities, for rural communities this is far from a given. That’s why I was concerned to learn that President Trump’s proposed budget for next year calls for the elimination of a primary funding source for rural arts programs: the National Endowment for the Arts.

…Art also teaches empathy. Oftentimes, you literally have to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Now more than ever, we need people to be communicating with and learning from people who are different from them.

In a contentious political climate, art can serve as an important counter-balance to politically-motivated myths, teaching curiosity and cross-cultural understanding instead.

To read Macker’s op-ed about the importance of the NEA to rural communities, click here.