As part of the proposed new federal budget plan, it was announced on March 16, 2017, that the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) will be completely eliminated if approved by Congress. Funding for both groups amounted to just 0.003 percent of all federal spending in 2016, with each organization receiving approximately $148 million. Meanwhile, the nonprofit arts industry generates $135 billion in economic activity annually (spending by organizations and their audiences) that supports 4.1 million jobs and generates $22.3 billion in government revenue. (1)
Aside from the positive economic impact realized by this small federal investment--which would no doubt increase with more funding instead of less--the NEA and NEH have a profound impact on the life of our nation; they support the heart and soul of our communities, the creative and intellectual backbone. The arts and humanities are key to innovation and inspiration, to understanding the human condition, and to addressing the complexities of our world. In addition, this small investment leverages private support from individuals, corporations and foundations to make even more impact.
In a country and time that is fractured by partisan dissent, the arts unite audiences in shared experiences, encourage civil discourse and engagement, thrive on collaboration, and celebrate diverse perspectives. And the humanities, in exploring the wide range of human culture, connect us to our past, help us understand our present, and inform us in planning for our future.
At the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance, we are educating and training some of the country's brightest and most talented aspiring artists and scholars in the performing arts. Fully aware of the career challenges that these young people potentially face upon graduation, we are also providing them with a robust program in entrepreneurship, to help them create their own opportunities and careers.
But even with this focus, the NEA and NEH will be critically important in helping our graduates share their incredible gifts to make a positive impact on society, because the NEA and NEH make the largest difference to the thousands of local arts and humanities programs across the nation. They are vital to the communities they serve-to organizations that introduce children to music, theatre, dance, and to other cultures ... that engage our youth in after-school programs that funnel their energies into creative explorations and expanded horizons ... that provide all ages with inspirational and stimulating performances, exhibits, lecture series, and more.
Many of our students will be joining--or launching--organizations like these when they graduate. And they will do so with the conviction, usually born of experience, that the arts have the power to change lives for the better. The elimination of the NEA and NEH would have little impact on our national budget while having a devastating impact on the small-to-midsize arts and cultural organizations throughout our country, and, as a result, to the quality of life for Americans everywhere. We firmly believe that the NEA and NEH must remain intact and continue to support the great cultural richness that the citizens of our country deserve.