In Brief

Government Shutdown Jeopardizes Major Exhibition Celebrating Women’s Suffrage Centennial

Employees of the National Endowment for the Arts, which funds many public arts programs, are among the 800,000 government workers currently living without pay. Now, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts cannot submit a grant proposal to celebrate the upcoming centennial.

US Capitol building (photo by Diliff/Wikimedia Commons)

The year 2020 will mark the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted (some) American women the right to vote. To celebrate this centennial, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) — the oldest art museum in the United States — has been planning a major event that will champion progress toward gender equity in the art world, showcasing work by 50 to 60 women artists.

To fund such events, PAFA usually relies on grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal government agency. But because of the partial federal government shutdown, employees of the NEA have now been furloughed for 31 days and counting. This means that PAFA’s employees haven’t been able to communicate with the NEA about writing a grant proposal for the 19th Amendment celebration, scheduled for summer 2020. That might seem a long way off, but grant proposals for the Art Works federal grant — which is specifically seeking to fund projects celebrating the Women’s Suffrage Centennial — are due in February.

“We don’t have the full resources available to us to write the best of grants that we can,” Brooke Davis Anderson, museum director of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, told Philly.com. “NEA is a foundation that helps us bring art to the public. If we can’t apply for grants because their staff can’t work, that puts some of our public programs at risk in the future.”

If the shutdown continues for much longer, it could jeopardize PAFA’s plans for the celebration, as well as other upcoming public arts programs. In the meantime, PAFA has joined a growing list of museums offering free entry to the 800,000 government workers currently living without pay.

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