Signs at the Women's March on Washington (photo by Jillian Steinhauer/Hyperallergic)

Signs at the Women’s March on Washington (photo by Jillian Steinhauer/Hyperallergic)

Early this morning President Donald Trump’s administration released a preliminary proposal for a 2018 federal budget, which calls for the outright elimination of the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities (NEA and NEH). The budget would also scrap the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and many other programs and agencies.

Trump is the first president to propose eliminating the NEA and NEH since they were created in 1965. Ending the two funding agencies would free up their respective annual budgets, slightly less than $150 million each in recent years, a drop in the bucket in Trump’s proposed $1.1 trillion federal budget for next year — which also calls for a $54-billion increase in military spending.

Trump’s budget proposal for 2018 will have no direct impact on federal funding, as it’s the US Congress that ultimately determines the budget, but it crystalizes the president’s priorities. Considering past congressional efforts to end the NEA and NEH, the Trump budget proposal could embolden lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Congress to mount a new assault on the agencies.

Even before taking office, Trump had announced his intention to end the NEA and the NEH. The outpouring of support for the agencies — in the form of petitions, art projects, open letters, and more — has unsurprisingly not swayed the president and his administration.

“Today we learned that the President’s FY 2018 budget blueprint proposes the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts,” NEA Chairman Jane Chu wrote in a statement posted on the agency’s homepage this morning. “We are disappointed because we see our funding actively making a difference with individuals of all ages in thousands of communities, large, small, urban and rural, and in every Congressional District in the nation.”

Update, 3/16, 1:55pm EST: Thomas P. Campbell, the outgoing director of the Metropolitan Museum, has released the following statement in response to news of the Trump budget’s details:

The President’s budget released today proposing the elimination of funding for the NEA, NEH and IMLS is shortsighted and does a terrible disservice to the American people.  For more than 50 years, these programs have provided, at modest cost, essential support to arts organizations throughout the country—many times sustaining the arts in areas where people do not have access to major institutions like the Metropolitan Museum. We will join with arts organizations and artists nationwide and work with our supporters in Congress to see that these vital funds are maintained.

Robert L. Lynch, the president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, also issued a statement in response to the news, which reads in part:

The Administration’s budget proposal stems from tired old ideas that show a lack of understanding of the important role that the NEA plays in America today. This thinking could not be more misguided. With only a $148 million annual appropriation, the NEA’s investment in every Congressional District in the country contributes to a $730 billion arts and culture industry in America, representing 4.2 percent of the annual GDP. This arts and culture industry supports 4.8 million jobs and yields a $26 billion trade surplus for our country. President Trump does not yet realize the vast contribution the NEA makes to our nation’s economy and communities, as well as to his own agenda to create jobs ‘made and hired’ in America.

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Benjamin Sutton

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...