President-elect Donald Trump, soon to be president tomorrow, has been aggressively planning to cut government spending and regulation.
Trump’s pick for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt wants to reduce carbon emission regulations. Betsy DeVos, his appointee for Secretary of Education is a supporter of charter rather than public schools. His choice for Secretary of Health and Human Services Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) stands ardently against Obamacare and governmental involvement in health services. On top of this, the departments of Commerce and Energy, Transportation, Justice and State are at risk of significant cuts and potential elimination. He is also planning the elimination of 25 different grant programs that counter violence against women
With the limited funding and threat of termination of so many different programs and offices of government, however, the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely.
Trump’s promise to rid these arts and humanities programs threaten the continuation of important yet often overlooked fields of work. The endowments offer grants for artistic and educational productions, exhibitions, research, and much more. With so few grant opportunities for the study and research of these fields already, a complete elimination of these National Endowments would be devastating for professionals, students, and others who dedicate their work and time to examining and creating important works in our society.
While these fields of study are already suffering, eliminating funds would also make accessing art and work done in the humanities even more difficult. Take theater, for example. In the U.S., where funding is already sparse, theater shows — even off-Broadway types of shows — cost ridiculous amounts of money, with some tickets starting at over $100. Compare this to European countries or to Canada. In the U.K., funding for theater and the arts is significantly higher than in America. The National Theatre in London is able to charge tickets starting at as low as £15. As of now, that’s still less than $20.
Because of this funding, people are able to attend theater shows and appreciate the arts. With already insane prices to access theater, art museums, and other products of the arts and humanities in America, naturally these important parts of our culture and society would be struggling. To cut funding further would essentially be a death wish to those fields of work altogether.
Trump’s plans around cutting funds from the two National Endowments aren’t a complete making of his own; The Hill reports that Trump could have gotten his spending ideas by a blueprint published last year by the conservative Heritage Foundation. Brian Darling, a former aide to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and former staffer at the Heritage Foundation made a statement that further shows that these negative sentiments towards the arts and humanities are more than just the President-elect’s
“The Trump Administration needs to reform and cut spending dramatically, and targeting waste like the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be a good first step in showing that the Trump Administration is serious about radically reforming the federal budget,” Darling said.
Furthermore, conservatives are also undermining artistic expression. Until recently, a painting by a student depicting protests in Ferguson, MO, was displayed at Capitol Hill. Republicans had been complaining about the painting, which depicts a pig in a police uniform pointing a gun at a protester — the artist’s way of expressing their sentiment towards the protests following Michael Brown’s death. As the painting was removed, congressional opponents of the painting argued that it violated rules for a national student arts competition by portraying subjects of current political controversy or of a sensationalistic or gruesome nature.
The painting has already been taken down several times. But now it faces permanent removal.
This instance of rejection of political art captures overall conservative and congressional sentiment about art and the humanities right now. The arts are political. If what you create, research, or report is deemed acceptable, nothing new grows. People and voices are silenced. Much like how if we always accepted the way science functions today, we would stop innovating and creating more advanced technology. Only, in defunding the arts and humanities, in removing work you disagree with, you stand against those who are already struggle, those who’ve been neglected, those who’ve been omitted.
Although we’ve been hearing about how women, people dependent on public healthcare, racial minorities, people of the LGBT+ community, and other marginalized groups are at risk of losing rights and justice with Trump’s incoming administration, it is important to also stand in solidarity with fields of study that are also in the shadows. The arts and humanities are integral to our nation’s history, culture, and society. Trump and Republican neglect — even villainization — of these fields will only continue to snuff them out.