A bipartisan group of 24 US senators, led by New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand, have written a letter to President Trump in support of the National Endowment of the Arts and Humanities (NEA and NEH), which are among nine agencies reportedly targeted by the administration for elimination as part of an effort to curb government spending.
“These federal agencies provide vital support and resources to endeavors in the arts and humanities across the country that serve as drivers of innovation and economic prosperity,” the letter reads, before outlining the important scholarly, historical and cultural work the organisations have fostered over their 50 year history.
The senators also make a point of providing some statistics of the economic benefit of the two federal agencies, which each operate on a shoestring budget of around $148 million, a drop in the $3.5 trillion bucket that the government spends each year. The return seems worth the investment: “The US Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that the arts and culture sector is a $704 billion industry, or 4.2% of the nation’s GDP,” the letter states. “The nonprofit arts industry alone produces $135 billion in economic activity annually and generates $22.3 billion in government revenue. The arts spur tourism, prepare our students for the innovative thinking required in the 21st century workplace, and employ more than 4 million people in the creative industries nationally.”
You can read the full letter below or by clicking here.
Dear Mr. President,
We write today in support of the critical work being done at the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). These federal agencies provide vital support and resources to endeavors in the arts and humanities across the country that serve as drivers of innovation and economic prosperity. We encourage you to support the Chairmen of these agencies, who demonstrate a continued commitment to supporting the arts and humanities.
Since its creation in 1965, the NEH has funded groundbreaking scholarly research, preserved essential cultural and educational resources, cataloged more than 63 million pages of our nation’s historic newspapers, and helped millions of young people grapple with the lessons of history. Additionally, both the NEH and NEA offer healing programs for those who serve in our Armed Services and their families, as well as veterans reintegrating into civilian life.
Also established in 1965, the NEA supports art and education programs in every Congressional District in the United States. Access to the arts for all Americans is a core principle of the Endowment. The majority of NEA grants go to small and medium-sized organizations, and a significant percentage of grants fund programs in high-poverty communities. Furthermore, both agencies extend their influence through states’ arts agencies and humanities councils, ensuring that programs reach even the smallest communities in remote rural areas.
Programs offered through the NEA and NEH not only help Americans express their values and forge connections between cultures, but they also serve as important economic drivers. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that the arts and culture sector is a $704 billion industry, or 4.2 percent of the nation’s GDP. The nonprofit arts industry alone produces $135 billion in economic activity annually and generates $22.3 billion in government revenue. The arts spur tourism, prepare our students for the innovative thinking required in the 21st century workplace, and employ more than 4 million people in the creative industries nationally.
While it is very rare for artists or institutions, like museums, to secure funding from just one source, it is the funding from these agencies that stimulate strong private investments. These agencies collaborate with private foundations across the country to bring artistic endeavors to life. In fact, each dollar awarded by the NEA leverages nine dollars from other sources.
The ideals of these agencies are enshrined in our Constitution as a fundamental tenet of American civil society. Article I, Section 8 explicitly empowers the United States Congress to promote the “Progress of Science and useful Arts.” The importance of federal support for these activities inherently aligns with the founding principles of this country.
Federal support for the arts and humanities is essential to our education system, economy, and who we are as a nation. We hope you will keep this in mind as you consider proposals that support these fundamental American institutions.