A case for the National Endowment for the Arts
Werning is a junior graphic design major and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
I would like to offer a counter-argument for the opinion piece published by Benjamin Levine on Nov. 13. In his piece, he writes:
“I don’t even need to do any research on the agency (National Endowment for the Arts) to know that it needs to be sliced from the federal budget.”
I believe that his self-professed ignorance displayed in this sentence undermines his whole argument. This is the equivalent of saying, “I don’t understand the war in Iraq, and I don’t feel like learning about it, so the government should eliminate military spending.”
Ignorance of a subject does not give someone authority to write about it in a beneficial way.
I think if the writer had taken the time to learn about the NEA, then he would have discovered that the vast majority of the projects it endorses are community-building endeavors that are seldom politically charged. Often, communities are able to experience great artistic opportunities that they would miss out on if the organization were cut from our budget.
In 2005, the NEA provided $45,000 to support the American Classical Orchestra in Norwalk, Conn., as a learning grant for its Classical Music for Kids program. This program has helped over 850,000 young students learn about classical music, and the theme of the year followed Thomas Jefferson’s life and connection with music.
In 2010, The NEA granted $30,000 to the American Folk Festival in Bangor, Maine. This yearly festival celebrates multicultural heritage, and the grant delivers a wide variety of art to the small Maine community. In addition to inspiring an audience of about 168,000 people, the event generated $9.8 million in revenue for Bangor.
These are just a couple of examples of how the NEA has positively impacted communities. Surprisingly, it doesn’t adhere to a “radical, liberal agenda.” In fact, the American Classical Orchestra’s project celebrates the life of Thomas Jefferson, an influential conservative historical figure. In addition, the American Folk Festival Grant generated roughly $9.8 million for a small community.
Of course, the NEA has been the target of scrutiny due to corruption, and I believe eliminating this corruption is of the utmost importance. But for the most part, the NEA strengthens our nation’s culture. Levine argues that government should have no influence in the arts. In an ideal world, I would agree that ultimate artistic freedom could be achieved with no ties or pressures by organizations. But ours is not an ideal world; art costs money to produce.
It is prudent to cut back on useless spending and demand transparency from government organizations, but eliminating the NEA sends a message that art is useless or trivial. This couldn’t be further from the truth; art is integral to our culture. It brings communities together, fosters excellence in education and can even improve the economy. A nation that promotes the arts embraces the richness of its past and invests in a more beautiful future for its citizens.