A broad cross-section of the arts community convened Thursday morning at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts to publicly launch a campaign opposing the Trump administration’s proposed elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment of the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
About 200 arts staffers and board members, legislators, and business people gathered to hear a dozen arts leaders and elected officials make the case for the arts as a stimulant to economic health as well as the human spirit.
Federal support ensures access to the arts for students who might otherwise be overlooked, said Carmen Febo San Miguel, executive director of Taller Puertorriqueño. Art-Reach executive director John Orr emphasized the work the NEA does in rural and impoverished areas. Philadelphia Museum of Art director and CEO Timothy Rub called for voicing opposition “thoughtfully and loudly.”
The program was constructed to bridge any potential partisan divide. “I know Democrats get credit for helping with the arts,” said Philadelphia Councilman Al Taubenberger, a Republican, confessing that he personally was more a sports fan than a museum-goer. But the economic impact of the arts in Philadelphia far exceeds that of the sports teams here, he said, and the arts keep “kids off the street.”
Maud Lyon, president of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, which organized the event along with PAFA, noted that in addition to the proposed elimination of all three agencies, the Trump administration is also calling for the current NEA and NEH budgets to be cut by $15 million each, or more than 10 percent. “That would have a big impact on grants already awarded,” she said.
Patricia Wilson Aden, president and CEO of the African American Museum in Philadelphia, issued the call to action, urging arts leaders to go from being “advocates to activists,” and to write, call, and tweet legislators. “We are just beginning,” she said.