The NEA is Not Going Anywhere…Yet

January 23, 2017

As the new United States government officials settle in, the whole country has turned a watchful eye towards D.C. to see what issues will be tackled first.

Last week The Hill published an article detailing the potential demise of the National Endowment for the Arts under Trump administration budget cuts. Unsurprisingly, it set off a flurry of worry among the arts community.

While the cause for concern is real, it is not new. The NEA has been under attack since its birth in 1965.

But the organization is far from the cutting room floor. This initial report is just that: a report. President Trump has a long, uphill climb before his budget cuts could be accepted by our Congress (although with the GOP controlling both the House and Senate, he has more of a chance to get it done).

For the 2017 fiscal year, the NEA announced over $30 million in grants will be awarded to various non-profit organizations and individuals throughout the country, with a focus on equal access to the arts. For the dance community this year, the NEA will support a national tour for Aspen Santa Fe Ballet with outreach in each community visited, The Luminoir Project by Diavolo Dance Theater and The George Balanchine Foundation video archives, to name just a few projects.

The George Balanchine Foundation video crew filming Scotch Symphony. Photo by Costas.

While NEA grants can greatly boost a company’s budget, the funds are not a sure thing to be relied upon year after year. Dance companies and freelance choreographers already have a system in place for privatized funding, should we lose the NEA fight. Individual donors are the dance field’s behind-the-scenes super heroes, and their continued patronage is what keeps the arts afloat in this country. In many cases, arts patrons not only donate money, but also volunteer their time and intellectual resources as board members, consultants or advisors. If dance no longer has government support, they will be more valuable than ever.

Perhaps a greater cause for concern is cutting arts programming in public schools and in small communities across the country. Many dance professionals supplement or make their living through teaching for NEA-supported programs. Children (and adults!) living in less affluent or rural areas may miss out on vital arts exposure if these programs lose funding.

Continue to advocate and speak out. As Dance/USA suggests, contact your congressional representative to voice your concern. Sign the petition against the NEA budget cut. But most of all, continue your art. Actions always speak louder than words, and luckily for us, dance is an action art!

The flag will never be flown half mast for the arts in this country. Not now, not ever.