More than 400 people paraded in the streets of New York on 3 April to protest against Donald Trump’s budget proposals. Announced in early March, the American president had kindled the anger of artists when he threatened to do away with the culture budget for 2018.
In particular, this proposal would put an end to the money allocated to the National Endowments for the Arts, though the sum at stake represents only 0.0037% of the federal budget. The NEA organization awards grants to museums, theatres and operators, among other recipients. As the New Yorker observes, this is not the first time that the NEA has been in the sights of Republican politicians as Ronald Reagan announced a similar proposal when he arrived in the White House. He finally limited himself to reducing its budget by 6%.
On 3 April artists, actors and musicians gave their riposte by demonstrating in the “Rally to Save the Arts” organized by the Democrat Jimmy Van Bramer, who criticized the “unprecedented attack” against the world of culture.
The demonstrators made clear the benefits that art brings. They underlined its intellectual virtues but also the advantages it offers on a more pragmatic level. The museums, theatres and libraries in the United States employ many Americans whose jobs could be imperiled by the budgetary cut. The musician and artist David Byrne (the former singer of Talking Heads) published an essay in which he emphasized the benefits that cultural institutions offer a population. He also referred to a study made by the University of Pennsylvania, which demonstrates that they bring lower rates of crime, delinquency and violence, and that culture also encourages children to achieve better grades at school.
The group of artists We Make America, which formed in January to protest against Donald Trump’s election, was present at the demonstration.
The budget cut has not yet been validated by Congress. In the meantime, the NEA continues to operate as normal while it awaits the outcome.