Arts & Culture

BAM, St. Ann’s and 9 other BK cultural institutions join forces to defend being worth federal funding

How could anyone with a heart defund this? Photo via Brooklyn Children's Museum / Facebook
How could anyone with a heart defund this? Photo via Brooklyn Children’s Museum / Facebook

With The Donald’s 2018 budget proposal to cut all federal arts fundings, local organizations which benefit and rely on those millions of dollars in funding are joining forces in the name of their communities and the beloved programs the groups provide to them.

“In light of the threat to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), eleven Brooklyn cultural institutions have banded together to explain the collective impact of culture across the borough,” the Brooklyn Historical Society wrote in an email containing a list of the following recent cultural initiatives that NEA and NEH funding have supported:

– At the Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS), NEH-funded projects include exhibitions on the legacy of abolitionism in Brooklyn, the history and future of the borough’s waterfront, and the voices and experiences of mixed-race Brooklynites.
– This year Brooklyn Children’s Museum was awarded a $100,000 term endowment by the NEH that will support BCM’s Teen Program. This program provides paid internships and job training to 90 Central Brooklyn youth annually. 100% of participants in the high school program identify as black, Hispanic, or Latino.
– In March 2016, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded the Brooklyn Museum a grant of $50,000 in support of Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic. After the Brooklyn presentation, the exhibition embarked on a national tour bringing Wiley’s work to six venues across the country.
– In 2016 BAM received $55,000 in NEA funds in support of the groundbreaking Next Wave Festival. The Festival presented four months of adventurous performances, artist talks, master classes, and visual art. The Next Wave Festival is a key part of the institution’s programming, which serves 750,000 people each year.
– St. Ann’s Warehouse received a $40,000 NEA grant this year, which included support for Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Music, the American story from 1776 to today, starting with Tom Paine’s “Common Sense” through the Civil War, two World Wars, settlement houses, Selma and the Civil Rights movement, AIDS, and community building throughout our history.

It is a sad sign of the times that established organizations which have had deeply positive impacts on their community for decades need to defend that they deserve federal funding. Together, the statement continues, these local strongholds of culture and all that is good and holy about American values served over 2,000,000 adults and more than 200,000 students. It also serves as good perspective for the situation: while these institutions would be hard hit by the defunding of the NEA and NEH, smaller organizations would be devastated.

In case you’re not enraged enough, and because it is important to understand the flip side of any argument, here’s a conservative take on A Few Good Reasons to Defund NEA/NEH (from NewsBusters, a website with the tagline “Exposing & Combating Liberal Media Bias”). You may want to sit down and put on oven mitts in case you feel the need to start punching walls while reading. In summary, if you don’t want to stomach the whole article: our Puritan values and taxpayer dollars should not be going to such “filth” as poetry, anything gay, or anything at all related to the Unspeakable Act of sex.

A full copy of the statement can be read on the Brooklyn Historical Society’s website.

Don’t feel helpless: sign the petition (which already has well over the 100,000 signatures it required to get a response from the White House) to not defund the NEA or NEH, if you can consider actually paying the suggested admission next time you frequent these institutions, and check out our roundup of local anti-Trump events this week.

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