posted by Christopher Howard
For more than a century, the College Art Association (CAA) has represented art historians, artists, museum professionals, designers, and others who think and care about the visual arts and its impact on our culture. We do this in part through direct advocacy for artistic and academic freedom.
Like many other Americans, we have closely watched the proposed changes to the federal government. Recent news reports reveal that the US President intends to propose the elimination of funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). This proposal is reportedly based in part on a recommendation by the Heritage Foundation that states, “As the U.S. Congress struggles to balance the federal budget and end the decades-long spiral of deficit spending, few programs seem more worthy of outright elimination than the National Endowment for the Arts.”
We offer our complete and total opposition to these efforts.
Since the 1960s, the NEA and NEH have supported artists, writers, museum professionals, and a wide array of scholars of various disciplines in creating new work and scholarship. The NEA supports thousands of cultural and educational organizations, and, in a few cases, individual artists. The NEH, which strengthens teaching and learning in schools and colleges—as well as the work of independent scholars—creates access to educational scholarship and research nationwide. In addition, the NEH is a strong supporter of museum exhibitions throughout the country. Combined, the budgets for the two agencies are less than $300 million. The organizational grantees generate hundreds of millions of dollars in matching support and countless new works of art and scholarship. These works and related projects are studied and enjoyed by millions of Americans in museums and other venues. The cultural sector of the US economy generates more the $135 billion in revenue and employs over three million people in small towns and large cities countrywide.
Given that the respective budgets of the NEA and NEH represent only a tiny fraction of the entire federal budget, their planned elimination cannot logically be seen as a cost-saving measure. Rather, it appears to be a deliberate, ominous effort to silence artistic and academic voices, representing a potentially chilling next step in an apparent effort to stifle and eradicate oppositional voices and cultural output from civic life. By eliminating the support for these agencies, the government undermines the unifying potential of the arts, culture, and education that encourages and nurtures communication and positive discussion.
CAA leadership is monitoring the possible elimination and/or reduction of funding for the NEA and NEH and how it may affect our members and the work they do. CAA will communicate and collaborate with other cultural and educational organizations and learned societies to determine potential future advocacy options.
We urge our fellow CAA members to contact their representatives in Congress to let them know the importance of maintaining a robust, national, publicly supported framework for artistic and academic freedom. When you contact your representative, we ask that you let them know you are a member of CAA and together we are advocating for continued public funding for the arts. We also encourage you to contact the National Humanities Alliance and Americans for the Arts to become further involved.
Through our collective strength, we can ensure that public funding of scholarship and art making continues, free from political and commercial interference.
Suzanne Preston Blier
Chief Executive Officer