MLA Statement on Proposed Cuts to Arts and Humanities
Music Library Association Statement on President Trump’s Budget Plan “America First: A Blueprint to Make America Great Again”
Recognizing the vital role that the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) have played in the creation, promotion, and preservation of America’s cultural heritage, the Music Library Association (MLA), the U.S. National Branch of IAML, the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives, and Documentation Centres, joins other concerned organizations in voicing our strongest opposition to President Trump’s proposed budget, which virtually eliminates the NEA, the NEH, and the IMLS, as well as other agencies. Although the cultural and educational value that these institutions have contributed to the betterment of American society in their many decades of existence is immeasurable, the economic activity the arts generate each year in the U.S. is, in fact, quantifiable, and indeed, quite substantial, totaling, according to the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA), $135 billion. Moreover, the arts employ more than four million Americans, representing a total of $86 billion in household income. Annual funding of a mere $148 million each for the NEA and NEH, with $250 million annually for IMLS, represents just .02 percent of the total federal budget; thus, it is quite clear that the economic return on investment from these three agencies alone is enormous.
While MLA realizes that there are deeply held differences regarding the proper role of the government in supporting the arts, we cite the words of two of our country’s greatest presidents, George Washington, who wrote that “the Arts and Sciences, essential to the prosperity of the State and to the ornament of human life, have a primary claim to the encouragement of every lover of his country and mankind,” and John F. Kennedy, who said that “the life of the arts, far from being an interruption, a distraction, in the life of the nation, is very close to the center of a nation’s purpose – and is a test to the quality of a nation’s civilization.” To the argument that it should be the private sector’s responsibility to fund arts and cultural organizations, we point out that this support is already firmly in place; it is generally agreed that private funding is not able to provide the monies necessary to fill all needs, and, in many instances, private foundations will only provide backing if matching funds—often from one of these federal agencies—are in place. Furthermore, we believe strongly that these agencies operate at an essentially egalitarian level, one that transcends the vagaries and predilections of private donors. The democratic nature of the financial support that these agencies have provided is clearly demonstrated through the data visualization given here for the IMLS
, which shows how the reach of this agency extends to every state in the country, from large, nationally prominent institutions to small, locally based groups. The NEH and NEA have had much the same impact; just two examples include a 2016 NEH educational grant, “The Most Southern Place on Earth: Music, History, and Culture of the Mississippi Delta,” and the 2017 NEA grant to “The Heart of Los Angeles Youth, Inc. (HOLA),” which supports the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles, offering music instruction, performing opportunities, counseling services, SAT prep courses, and private tutoring.
In conclusion, MLA requests that our elected representatives listen to their constituents closely, and realize that, no less than military power or economic might, what has made America truly great is its culture—art, literature, theater, cinema, dance, and music. The future of our cultural heritage is in dire jeopardy should the agencies that have fostered and supported that culture for many years cease to exist.