NEA Funding Retained in Congress, Bay Area Arts Groups Cheer

Artists and Arts Advocates rallied at San Francisco City Hall March 21 in support of the National Endowment for the Arts. (Photo: Cy Musiker/KQED)

San Francisco Bay Area arts organizations celebrated a victory Monday after months of worry.

Today's bipartisan Congressional agreement funding the government for the rest of 2017 preserves the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and other cultural agencies, despite President Trump’s effort to zero out their budgets and kill the agencies.

In fact, the Republican-controlled Congress increased funding for the NEA and the NEH by $2 million each, to $150 million dollars.

Californians for the Arts Board Member Brad Erickson
Californians for the Arts Board Member Brad Erickson. (Courtesy California Arts Advocates)

“Just got this update from Americans for the Arts,” wrote Theatre Bay Area Executive Director Brad Erickson in an email. “Astounding.”

Erickson, a board member for Californians for the Arts, led a team of artists and arts administrators on a lobbying trip to Washington on Arts Advocacy Day in March.

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“I have to think that all the advocacy is what made the difference,” Erickson said in an phone interview. “More than 700 people lobbied in Washington this year, and staff for members of Congress said they got an astounding amount of emails and letters supporting funding for the arts.”

California arts groups split a total of roughly nine million dollars last year from the NEA.

Disabled dancers are made very welcome at the monthly Community Dance Jams at AXIS Dance in Oakland
Disabled dancers are made very welcome at the monthly Community Dance Jams at AXIS Dance in Oakland. (Photo: Cy Musiker/KQED )

Oakland’s Axis Dance Company receives about $20,000 each year from the NEA for outreach to the disabled community. Director Judith Smith said she’s relieved about the news. “But the thing we all have to remember,” she added, “is not to get complacent. Because the funding is there now, but don’t think the attacks are going to stop. Because they won’t.”

Smith thinks President Trump will try to kill the NEA and other cultural agencies again when negotiations begin this fall for the 2018 fiscal year.

Erickson agreed with that prediction. “We’re on to the next battle,” he said. “But it’s encouraging to be where we are today.”

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