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)

Last night, the Appropriations Committee of the US House of Representatives approved the Interior and Environment Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2018, earmarking $145 million each for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). While this represents potential cuts of nearly $5 million compared to the $149,849,000 both agencies received for FY2017, it’s also a far cry from the complete de-funding called for by President Trump in his proposed federal budget for next year.

The Appropriations Committee’s budget would additionally slash federal funding for the Smithsonian Institution by nearly $13 million, from $729.4 million in FY2017 to $716.6 million next year. The Committee is also proposing to maintain funding for the National Gallery of Art at last year’s level, at around $155.5 million.

The Appropriations Committee approved the $31.4 billion spending package — which, in addition to the NEA, NEH, NGA, and Smithsonian, covers everything from Environmental Protection Agency funding to money for fighting forest fires on land controlled by the Department of the Interior — by a margin of 30 votes to 21. Overall it represents a drop in appropriations of $824 million compared to the 2017 bill, a huge cut that nevertheless is a far cry from the $4.3 billion in cuts Trump called for in his proposed budget.

The appropriations bill now must be debated, amended, and approved by the US Senate, whose federal budget proposal for FY2018 isn’t likely to take shape until after Labor Day.

Despite the funding cuts proposed by the Appropriations Committee, supporters of the arts can still lobby for boosts to the NEA and NEH’s funding. Indeed, in April a bipartisan group of more than 150 members of Congress called for the agencies’ appropriations to be increased to $155 million next year.

“The evidence of the value of and demand for the arts in America actually calls for an increase in the federal arts appropriations,” Robert L. Lynch, the president and CEO of arts advocacy group Americans for the Arts, said in a statement last week when the Appropriations Subcommittee first made its proposal for $5 million funding cuts to the NEA and NEH. “I hope that the full House Appropriations Committee, and the expected consideration from the US Senate, will support an increase to $155 million, which was requested by a record number of bipartisan members of Congress this year.”

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the Appropriated Committee’s funding for the National Gallery of Art last year was $133 million. This is incorrect; $133 million is budgeted for salaries, and an additional $22 million-plus is given for repairs, renovation, and other expenses. This brings the total up to around $155.5 million. This has been amended. 

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...