Trump On The Arts & Humanities: You’re Nothing But Waste

Adaptistration Guy Trump BirdHappy Inauguration Day. Well, not really since it turns out the new President has adopted a position that the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities are a waste and has recommended both departments be eliminated in 2017.

According to an article by Alexander Bolton in the 1/19/2017 edition of The Hill, the incoming President is planning to propose a budget that eliminates the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities.

“The Trump Administration needs to reform and cut spending dramatically, and targeting waste like the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be a good first step in showing that the Trump Administration is serious about radically reforming the federal budget,” said Brian Darling, a former aide to [Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)] and a former staffer at the Heritage Foundation.

The administration also plans to eliminate funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and force it to become privatized.

If that weren’t enough, there are plenty of cuts to other departments and programs that often support and/or complement mission driven activity for performing arts organizations.

…Trump’s proposed cuts calls for eliminating …the Minority Business Development Agency, the Economic Development Administration…[and] Violence Against Women Grants.”

Clearly, if your organization has an active and effective Government Affairs committee, this is precisely the time to leverage its influence. If you don’t, then you have one more reason why it is something you should have established years ago; fortunately, it’s never too late to start.

For now, you should begin reaching out to your respective representatives in Congress.

Visit The Performing Arts Alliance’s Advocacy Issue Center to find your Federal officials and call them to insist that they resist any effort to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities. Also, encourage them to issue public statements reinforcing the reality that nonprofit performing arts exists in large part due to large individual donors so any cuts or eliminations need to be paired with incentives for increased giving.

Fortunately, the field has survived worse storms but that doesn’t mean you should sit back on do nothing. Get active, participate, and push back.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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