Yesterday, Lincoln Center — the world’s largest performing arts center, which famously hosts the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Ballet, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Juilliard, and much more — published an open letter defending the National Endowment for the Arts against Donald Trump’s threats to defund it, despite the minuscule amount of money it takes to keep it running. The letter first draws on the personal — and thereby social — import of the arts:
A child’s early introduction to ballet teaches strength and discipline. A veteran’s exposure to art therapy brings healing and hope. A student’s participation in music class improves math scores and critical thinking skills. Art shapes achievement, with profound and practical effects.
But it doesn’t only speak in compelling human terms; it plunges, rather, into pragmatic, monetary terms that, say, a real estate tycoon-turned-politician might perhaps understand:
Still more, art anchors communities. In American cities and towns, arts institutions and districts are breathing life into neighborhoods—attracting investment, spurring development, fueling innovation, and creating jobs. Arts and culture help power the U.S. economy at the astounding level of $704.2 billion each year.
The letter goes on to vouch for the value of the NEA as a facilitator (through supporting local grant-giving councils) for so many arts oriented programs and projects, noting that importance alongside the fact that “the total cost of the NEA is less than one dollar a year for every American.” (A piece in the Boston Globe claims it’s forty-six cents.)
The New York Times wrote yesterday that “while Democrats have long supported the endowments, the coming budget proposals from President Trump will test the sort of Republicans who have been the rescuers and defenders of arts spending during the decades–long efforts by conservatives to cut and even eliminate them,” with PEN America’s executive director Suzanne Nossel pointing out that these Republicans’ voices/votes would be crucial in swaying Congress against accepting the elimination of arts endowments.
Time noted a while back that, given the smallness of the NEA budget (and that of other similar programs Donald Trump allegedly seeks to cut), that “some of President Donald Trump’s planned budget cuts appear to be targeted more at undercutting Democratic priorities than at shrinking the national debt.”