A professor at Harvard University, Suzanne Blier, claims that President Trump’s proposed cuts to the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for Humanities is “a deliberate attempt to silence and eradicate key academic and artistic voices from American civic life, undermining the primacy of the arts, culture, and education within our democracy” because, she claims, the funding is a small amount of the overall budget, so Trump is clearly targeting the arts.
Published in the student newspaper The Harvard Crimson, the sentiments were echoed by other Harvard professors. Music Department chair Suzannah Clark also told the student newspaper that arts and music couldn’t survive without taxpayer funds; “There already aren’t enough funding bodies to fund everybody. It’s incredibly competitive…If you shut down the public fund, it’s like taking your jugular out. You can’t survive.”
There comments raise several questions. Are the professors saying that proposing cuts to federally funded arts projects silences artists? Are the professors saying that without public funding the arts won’t survive? Hypeline News reached out to the university for clarification on the comments but did not immediately hear back.
Let’s take a look at the claims of the professors, which seem to be that cutting taxpayer funds will squash art in the United States, by starting with the White House budget blueprint. Cutting the NEA would amount to savings of $150 million per year, and cutting the NEH would amount to a similar amount, totaling $300 million total.
Would this kill the arts? The Art Institute of Chicago is considered one of the premier art museums in the United States. According to its 2014 tax filings, only 2% of its $312 million budget came from government grants. In fact, the museum received $70 million in total contributions and grants, meaning that $64 million came from private donations. The investment income of the museum came to $46 million alone.
If private citizens want to support the arts and the humanities they are free to continue to do so, as they have always been able to do. For example, shortly before Trump released his budget blueprint, the Denver Art Museum announced donations of $18 million from private donors and organizations. Likewise, the oft-vilified Koch brothers have donated similar amounts to PBS in the past decade among other donations to the arts.
Trump’s cuts, despite the warnings of liberal academics, won’t affect the arts and humanities, as private individuals, organizations, and corporations will still continue to fund the arts as they have done for years.