Installation view of Puppies Puppies, Liberty (Liberté), 2017. Whitney Biennial 2017, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 17 March to 11 June. Photograph by Matthew Carasella.

US museums fight Trump’s plan to cut arts agencies

Simon Stephens, 22.03.2017
National Endowment for the Arts among the bodies at risk
Museums and galleries in the US have condemned president Donald Trump’s proposals to cut a number of agencies that support the arts.

Trumps proposed federal budget has called for the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

“While these proposals from the Trump administration were rumoured for some time, they are no less alarming and disturbing to see released,” said Laura Lott, the president and chief executive of the American Alliance of Museums.

“The NEA, NEH and and the IMLS play an essential role in helping museums make the arts and the humanities accessible to all Americans.”

A statement from the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) said: “The AAMD and our member museums strongly stand against the elimination of the NEA, NEH, and the IMLS.

“Art touches people throughout their lives – from toddlers first learning about the world, to those with Alzheimer’s disease reconnecting with someone they love. Museums offer art programmes to help teachers and homeschoolers prepare lessons, to train medical students to be better doctors, to ease the suffering of veterans with PTSD, and to share with people across the country the best of creative achievement.

"The NEA, NEH, and IMLS are essential partners in this work, providing grants to many types of non-profit organisations and helping to bring the arts to every part of America, from rural areas to military bases, and to urban centres.”

A number of individual museums have also responded to the proposed cuts.

"The president's budget proposing the elimination of funding for the NEA, NEH and IMLS is shortsighted and does a terrible disservice to the American people,” said a statement from The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. 

“For more than 50 years, these programmes have provided, at modest cost, essential support to arts organisations throughout the country – many times sustaining the arts in areas where people do not have access to major institutions like The Metropolitan Museum of Art. We will join with arts organisations and artists nationwide and work with our supporters in Congress to see that these vital funds are maintained."

Trump's proposed budget came shortly before the opening of the Whitney Biennial, the longest running survey of American art hosted by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. A statement on the museum's website said that many of the exhibiting artists were exploring how "racial tensions, economic inequities, and polarising politics" were affecting society. A collective called Occupy Museums created an installation called Debtfair, which groups the works of 30 artists according to the large companies they are in debt to.