Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I’d hear our government truly propose the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment (NEA) for the Humanities and National Public Broadcasting (among others). Historically, the idea surfaces periodically, particularly when extremely controversial programs are funded and there is an outcry from constituents. But the complete elimination of these institutions is an extreme measure.

It should be of great concern to all residents of low population states like North Dakota which are largely rural. We simply do not have the resources (corporations and philanthropists) that can step in and fill the void should this budget be approved.

Each year, The Arts Center receives funding from the North Dakota Council on the Arts (NDCA) –  Institutional Support and Project funding. Our local schools receive Artists in Residence and Teacher Incentive grants. These grant funds, received from the NDCA, are comprised of both state and NEA dollars. The Arts Center has also received funding directly from the NEA to support such programs as the Culture Festivals and later this summer NEA funds will support a community-centered 3-day event to celebrate the completion of the Hansen Arts Park. These grants are highly competitive and only programs of the highest quality are funded. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the NEA and NDCA don’t just choose who they fund in a willy-nilly fashion–there are panels of experts and thresholds of experience that must be met before any funding will be given–these programs aren’t just fluff. These programs have goals and benefits which are measured and evaluated.

I can confidently say that our most visible and meaningful programs are funded in some way by the NEA – the Art for Life Program, which brings artists and art activities to area seniors to improve their lives and their health, the Artist in Residence Program which places artists in area schools to give youth the tools to become creative thinkers (something the United States is falling short of in the world arena), the STEAM Team Program which trains teachers, administrators and artists to collaborate on how to integrate the arts into their curricula whereby helping students understand and retain complex subjects like science and math.

Arts Advocates are rallying to make sure important programs such as these are not eliminated. Everyone should be particularly concerned about rural communities like Jamestown not to mention those smaller communities that utilize NDCA funds to provide annual programs like Children’s Summer Theater, Arts Fairs and Concerts.

  • Rural areas, low-income communities and schools would suffer disproportionately from reductions in government arts funding. By using a combination of state and federal funds, state arts agencies award more than 25% of their grants to rural areas, 54% to low-income communities and 45% to arts education projects.

This is but one of the concerns outlined by the National Assembly of State Arts Organizations, you can read the full statement Legislative Alert: President Proposes Elimination of the NEA. If you are concerned about the possibility of these cuts please let those who represent you in Washington know how you feel. Contact your House and Senate delegations. Urge them to oppose the President’s request and provide full funding for the NEA.