While President Trump's proposed $970 million budget cuts in the arts and humanities account for less than one-tenth of a percent of savings in the administration's $1.1 trillion federal budget plan, the effect could gut culture and diminish quality of life across the United States if not the world, say experts at Washington University in St. Louis.
"The consequences of their proposed eradication (of certain agencies) are enormous," said Sabine Eckmann, William T. Kemper Director and Chief Curator at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum. "Such an act would have dire, and in many cases irreversible, direct and indirect impacts on the culture, history, and quality of life in this country."
While also affecting areas as broad as public broadcasting and as specific as art therapy for military veterans, these impacts will hit home at Washington University and other universities, Eckmann said.
"The current proposed 2018 federal budget will eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), among other agencies," Eckmann said upon the March 16 release of the proposed federal budget. "The NEA and IMLS have provided and continue to provide seminal support for the Kemper Art Museum through critical exhibition and conservation grants that made public art historical scholarship and supported creative education programs for our communities on and off campus. They also helped to conserve significant works from the Museum's art collection to ensure their existence for generations to come.
"We are deeply indebted to these organizations and their investments in the humanities."
It's a dismissive attitude toward the roles that the arts and humanities play in everyday life, culture, and academics, said Carmon Colangelo, Ralph J. Nagel Dean and E. Desmond Lee Professor for Collaboration in the Arts in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts.
"It is sad to see such a deliberate effort to suppress scholarship, artistic expression, cultural production, and the unifying value the arts have on our communities," Colangelo said. "The NEA and NEH are very small slivers of the federal budget, yet have supported a wide and diverse range of cultural institutions, museums, and educational organizations in every state so that millions of Americans can enjoy the arts."
University City High School ninth graders visited the Washington University campus in November as part of the First Year Reading Program. They participated in a discussion of the book “Between the World and Me,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and toured the Kemper Art Museum. The Institute for School Partnership hosted the visit.