When Americana Becomes American’t

Where do your NEA dollars really go? What we learned on an Indiana road trip. (WaPo)

Think you know where NEA dollars go? They go to controversial big city artists who urinate on the crucifix, right? Think again.

This is an excellent article on the many programs funded in Indiana, including therapeutic art and folk art programs.

A decade ago, Steve and I had the pleasure of going to a concert of Appalachian folk music that was funded in part by the NEA. The “Music from the Crooked Road: Mountain Music of Virginia” tour brought Appalachian music and dance concerts to West Coast communities, including Marin. The concert was extremely well-received. It was actually a bit embarrassing watching people from a community with so much disposable income practically throwing their money at the artists, who were manning their own merchandise tables, to get a CD, any CD, from one of the performers. It was an extraordinary night of music and dance that we remember fondly. (And yes, we got some CDs that night, too.)

The NEA has helped fund similar programs to bring the Crooked Road tour to other parts of the country 7 times since 2007. Here’s a quick promo video from their 2010 tour of East Coast states: https://youtu.be/CShd1lIu8eI.

The NEA supports many types of arts programs, including traditional and folk artists right where they live. It brings the arts to the people in the artists’ own communities, revitalizing downtown areas, and spreads access and appreciation for regional art and artists all over the country. It helps to preserve the many disparate forms of American cultural heritage, as well as promotes contemporary artists who weave into that legacy.

The “big” Federal programs to support our cultural heritage, creative endeavors, and access to knowledge, all together, come to less than 2/100ths of one percent of the $4 trillion Federal budget (count those zeroes: $4,000,000,000,000):

  • NEA: $150 million (.003 percent)
  • NEH: $150 million (.003 percent)
  • IMLS: $230 million (.0035 percent)
  • CPB (funds both PBS and NPR): $445 million (0.01 percent)
  • Donald Trump’s proposed budget would cut all of these agencies to zero dollars, with actual full elimination of the NEA, NEH, and IMLS.

    If we, as a country, don’t want to designate less than 2/100ths of one percent of the Federal budget to keep our culture alive, then seriously, what are the dregs we’re all fighting each other over? Where is the soul of our country?

    My pride of country incorporates a lot more than just the strength of our military. What about you?

    From the article:

    Over the past decade, the NEA’s budget has remained relatively flat after peaking in the early ’90s. And NEA leadership, bruised by the culture wars of the 1990s that led to cuts under then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), has moved away from making direct grants to artists who could be perceived as controversial. The NEA typically passes the money through state arts commissions and other local agencies.

    Still, that hasn’t stopped conservative critics of the NEA from praising Trump’s budget proposal. Fox News host Tucker Carlson, for example, said the agency offers “welfare for rich, liberal elites. That’s who consumes the products that they produce.”

    That’s not true, according to budget figures and the nonprofit leaders in Pence’s home state. The data show that what’s at stake are not cutting-edge, big-city provocateurs, but traditional artists who focus on such decidedly noncommercial traditions as crafts and mountain music.

    Where do your NEA dollars really go? What we learned on an Indiana road trip. (WaPo)