Keeping our NEAttention


There is so much competing for our attention right now. Breaking News after Breaking News, Click-Bait after Click-Bait…

I don’t mean to add to the hysteria, but…

Did you know the National Endowment for the Arts was at risk of a significant cut in funding recently?

No? That’s understandable. In a time when children are locked in cages at the border. When much of Puerto Rico remains unrestored ten months after Hurricane Maria. When people who worked for our President’s election campaign are behind bars for their actions with foreign entities. How are we supposed to keep track of it all?

A couple weeks ago, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to erode funding for The National Endowment for the Arts by 15%. Those efforts failed. Thank goodness.

And to the contrary, both Houses of Congress have since approved an increase of $2.2 Million for the 2019 Budget. Of course, this has to be signed by the President, so we can’t uncork the champagne bottles just yet. But those of us who value the NEA can at least breathe a sigh of relief for the moment. The agency doesn’t have the same obstacle it did last year. Remember when Congress considered taking up our President’s Budget Blueprint, which called for elimination of the NEA?

Somehow the NEA, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting have all been constant targets for cuts by certain factions of the Republican Party ever since Newt Gingrich was Speaker of the House two decades ago. As of 2017, the three agencies combined accounted for 0.02% of federal spending. And yet also in 2017, Arts and Culture accounted for 4.2% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

Why are they trying to stifle such a worthwhile economic investment?

Meanwhile, our President wants to waste $12 Million on a Military Parade. For those of you keeping track, $12 Million is 7.7% of the NEA’s 2018 funding. Or, half the amount that some Members of Congress wanted to carve out of next year’s funding.

A flock of ducks in ripply, clear dark blue water. The ducks are all black and white except for a mallard in the center. He is facing to our right, and his right side is parallel to us. He has an orange beak, green head, and brown chest.

It is to our benefit to keep a watchful eye on our country’s arts agencies. As I’ve written previously, the National Endowment for the Arts serves the entire nation. Not just by supporting professional arts organizations and initiatives, but also through community endeavors such as these.

Funding issues aren’t the only thing to keep an eye on right now.

Our President still hasn’t awarded the National Medal of Arts to anyone yet. Ronald Reagan began presenting this White House distinction of cultural achievement in the United States on a mostly annual basis. While spokespeople for the President claim evaluations are underway for upcoming recipients, this isn’t a chicken to count until it’s hatched.

Also, Jane Chu concluded her four-year term as Chair of the NEA, and you guessed it: that is a position that remains unfilled. Who’s responsibility is it to appoint a successor, you may ask? It’s the President’s responsibility, of course.

There are a handful of ways I like to stay informed on arts news.

  • Americans for the Arts. An incredibly prolific nonprofit that does wonderful work for the arts on all fronts. Legislative issues. Community initiatives. Research. Education. Keeping the Arts in the national dialogue. They are a very boots-on-the-ground operation. I’m a monthly donor and e-newsletter subscriber.
  • Online Cultural Journalism. ArtsJournal and Adaptistration are my two go-to sites.
  • Local News Outlets. A typical Arts section or column might be more centered around performance reviews than industrial perspectives. But local writers are also the ones who report on state and regional arts organizations that partner with the NEA.

Do you have anything to add to this list?

About Doug Rosenthal

No one told Douglas Rosenthal to give up playing music. Not even his patient siblings, who endured many early-morning practice sessions; even they encouraged their brother to follow his passion. As the years passed, that passion evolved from simply playing music to advocating for music, musicians, and music-lovers. Douglas is based in Washington, DC. He is the Assistant Principal Trombonist of the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra/Washington National Opera Orchestra. He currently makes his home on Capitol Hill in DC with a pug named Jake, who serves as a constant reminder to relax, eat well, and sleep plentifully.

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2 thoughts on “Keeping our NEAttention”

  1. Delete my email from your list. The NEA is so prejudiced to large nonprofits. Gee, no one ever talks about that, do they? Do you have any idea how much more fair and how much more funding would be available to nonprofits if the “NEA” was privatized??? No, you don’t.

    DELETE my email.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I have never explored the monetary distribution of NEA Grant recipients, but I can say for certain that a great number of smaller-budget organizations do receive funding. That said, no matter the size of the organization, an NEA Grant will likely not be a life-saver. Their FY2018 funding amounted to $153 Million–not much for a national agency to work with. And so you’re right, private foundations have served the Arts in our country for centuries, giving more substantially than the NEA is currently able.

      An “unsubscribe” option is always available on my emailed posts. Once you have unsubscribed, you are welcome to contact me directly on the website to verify that you’ve been removed from the list.


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