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The War Against the Arts Begins

The War Against the Arts Begins

“GE hires a lot of engineers. We want young people who can do more than add up a string of numbers and write a coherent sentence. They must be able to solve problems, communicate ideas and be sensitive to the world around them. Participation in the arts is one of the best ways to develop these abilities.”

– Clifford V. Smith, President of the General Electric Foundation

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I write this message on my own, without prior consent from the Gamma Xi Phi Board of Trustees.  It is an editorial which does not necessarily reflect the beliefs or policies of GXP at this moment.

This week, President Donald J. Trump proposed a national budget which proposes elimination of funding for:

  • The National Endowment for the Arts
  • The National Endowment for the Humanities
  • The Institute of Library and Museum Services, and
  • The Corporation for Public Broadcasting

Total funding for these vital programs comes in at well under a billion dollars and .02 percent of the overall federal budget.

Some of you may think that the NEA, for example, only serves the artistic elite in Hollywood or major urban areas on the east coast.  Well, that’s not true.  In 2016, the NEA awarded 2,400 grants across every congressional district across America. That money wasn’t earmarked just for large arts groups–over half went to small and medium sized artistic organizations.

Friend, I am worried.  Not for the District of Columbia or New York or Chicago.  I am worried for Omaha, Nebraska.  For Tulsa, Oklahoma.  For Southampton County, Virginia. For Flint, Michigan.  For small towns across America with a single museum.  For those towns who have an emerging cultural awareness.

What’s going to happen to them?  How will they continue to document their stories, to build artistic economies, and to preserve their culture?

I want for you to join the call for Congress to save the arts–not just the NEA, but all four programs which are being threatened.  Call your Congressional representatives today.  Yes, that includes the introverts in the room.  I hate making phone calls, but these calls are logged and it does make a difference.

If you’re looking for what to say, visit the Americans for the Arts’ Arts Mobilization Center.

As a member of an arts fraternity, I am deeply troubled by the callousness with which this administration has treated the arts and humanities.  We will have to work together, across artistic disciplines and across party lines in order to ensure that our nation continues to be a global leader.  The war on the arts has begun and we need all available hands to join the fight.


Rashid Darden,
National President of Gamma Xi Phi


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