The Impact of Trump’s Budget Cuts on the Arts in North Carolina

By Alex McVey, PhD Candidate, Dept. of Communication, UNC Chapel Hill, Twitter: @JAlexanderMcVey

Last week, we provided you with an update on the local impact of President Donald Trump’s proposed federal budget. Trump’s proposed budget would devastate scientific research, education, and environmental funding in North Carolina. 

This week, we want to focus on a different local impact from Trump’s proposed budget cuts: funding for the arts.

President Trump’s budget proposes entirely eliminating federal funding for the National Endowment of the Arts. The NEA received 148 Million Dollars in 2016, which, as Andrea K. Scott in The New Yorker points out, is a mere .003 percent of the federal budget. That would save Americans approximately 46 cents per year, less than the cost of a postage stamp.

Budget cuts to the NEA would hit North Carolina hard.  Last year, twelve grants were awarded to North Carolina organizations dedicated to supporting the arts in our state:

  • North Carolina Arts Council: $957,300
  • United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County: $20,000.
  • North Carolina Symphony: $10,000.
  • North Carolina Folklife Institute: $25,000.
  • Music Maker Relief Foundation, Inc.: $15,000
  • Mint Museum of Art, Inc. (aka Mint Museums): $30,000
  • Central Park (STARworks Center for Creative Enterprise) Star Glass exhibit: $15,000
  • Central Park (STARworks Center for Creative Enterprise) NC Woodfire! Fest 2017.: $50,000
  • University of North Carolina at Charlotte: $10,000.
  • Durham Arts Council: $100,000
  • Duke University, Durham: $18,000
  • Brevard Music Center, Inc., Brevard: $10,000

While this money is a drop in the bucket when it comes to the overall federal budget, it is the lifeblood of the organizations who rely on it to sustain their funding throughout the year and create new projects to benefit North Carolinians.

Funding for the arts is a boon for North Carolina’s educational system. Studies have shown that participation in arts correlates with an increase in student attendance, higher scores on standardized tests in math and science, and improved cognition.

Not only are the arts intrinsically valuable, they are also an economic and educational boom for the state. As Wayne Martin, the Executive Director of the North Carolina Arts Council states in an interview with IndyWeek:

"The NEA has been around for more than fifty years, and now, if it were taken away, to me it’s really penalizing our state, because it’s through the NEA that we use these funds to improve our quality of life… NEA’s budget is a speck in the federal budget. Those funds are very important for us and for our arts partners across the state. They translate into economic development, helping students do well in school and later on in life, helping cities and towns revitalize themselves. It seems really obvious to me that that small investment is yielding big returns for North Carolina."

The NC Arts Council estimates that the state’s arts and culture sector is a 1.24-billion-dollar industry which supports over 300,000 jobs, over 6% of the state’s work-force. Funding for the arts thus provides a huge bang-for-the-buck for North Carolina’s economy.

Your call to action: Call your representatives and tell them to protect crucial federal funding for the National Endowment of the Arts, because these funds benefit all North Carolinians.