The stalwart support in Congress is a rare example of bipartisanship in this divisive era, said Arena Stage Executive Producer Edgar Dobie.
“It’s never a chore to defend how important these institutions are to us, and the reason they continue to be funded and protected by the appropriators is because we stay in touch with them all year round,” he said.
But that doesn’t mean Dobie isn’t concerned.
“I don’t think you can ever let down your guard,” he said.
Some arts leaders are hopeful that Congress will continue to increase the funding of cultural institutions even as Trump calls for their elimination.
“For more than 50 years, the NEA has expanded access to the arts for all Americans, awarding grants in every congressional district throughout all 50 states and U.S. territories, particularly benefiting communities that have fewer opportunities to experience the arts,” Robert Lynch, president and chief executive of Americans for the Arts, said in a statement.
“It’s because of this that congressional appropriators have chosen in the previous three years to reject the administration’s call for termination of the agency and instead provided increased funding — in [fiscal year] 2020, an additional $7.25 million in funds were added over [fiscal year] 2019. I expect to see similar action by Congress this year, and hopefully a $7.75 million increase.”
Trump’s 2021 budget calls for $30 million to close out the National Endowment for the Arts and $33.4 million to shutter the National Endowment for the Humanities.
It also calls for $23 million to close the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and $58 million over two years to shutter the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Arts-education programs are also discontinued in the Education Department budget; they would be replaced by block grants.
Agency leaders emphasized their ongoing work as the budget process proceeds.
“As NEH awaits congressional action on the President’s proposed budget, the agency is continuing normal operations and will announce our latest round of FY 2020 awards this spring,” NEH Chairman Jon Parrish Peede said in a statement.
Newly commissioned IMLS Director Crosby Kemper III said his agency would continue its work “investing in libraries and museums — those anchors in our communities — and helping millions across the nation tell their American stories.”