Kultivate has largely tried to remain out of the election fray, only allowing slight commentary in our in world group. But as we are an arts magazine, I feel that it is important to spell out what Trump’s win means for the arts in America.
It is no secret that the arts are always under attack. Usually in public schools, art programs are the first to be cut when a budget crunch hits. From art teachers to music teachers, their numbers have dwindled in America’s public schools. Back when I attended high school, in the late 80’s and early 90’s, I can remember my high school having 4 art teachers, 4 music teachers, and many English and literature teachers. My high school offered Art 1 to 4, photography, painting, chorus, band, etc..Fast forward to last year at my nephews high school and he has confirmed that there was only 1 art teacher and 1 music teacher, with less offerings.
Of course this varies from state to state. But lets look at the arts from a national standpoint. Earlier this year in 2016, Kentucky’s governor stated that students who are majoring in French literature should not receive state funding for their college education and the governor of Florida criticized anthropology majors.
In the 1990’s the National Endowment for the Arts had its budget cut by 40% by a Republican led Congress. This lead to a tremendous reduction in art grants for rural and inner city art related projects. For this year, the Republican lead Congress has proposed a 2 million dollar cut to the NEA and who knows what will occur in 2017.
And it is not just galleries or museums that are affected it is also our libraries. Take a look around in your town. Compare how many libraries you have now with the number you had as a kid. In my county back in North Carolina, they are down to just 3 public libraries, which is down from the 7 they used to have. You may ask who uses a library now in the computer age? The answer is many. Libraries have evolved from just a place to check out books. Yes they still have books by the droves, but they also offer DVD’s, computers, free computer and internet courses, programs for children and adults, and are a center for learning. Elderly people often use the library to fill out social security forms and people who are unemployed often use the library to find jobs, create resumes, and to get other job search related assistance. One of the libraries that closed in my county offered free literacy classes to adults that cannot read. This is important considering that 32 million Americans cannot read. Existing libraries are also under attack. As most libraries are funded by you the taxpayers, evening and weekend hours will shrink. This means that those of you who actually use your local libraries during this time, will find it inaccessible.
As for higher education, many art related degree programs are under attack. With increased student loan debt, we often hear that that art degree isn’t worth the money or that music degree will lead to less opportunities or why do people major in liberal arts? While it is true that accountants, economics, scientists, and tech degree majors will make more money than their arts and humanities counterparts, the reality is that not everyone can be an accountant, economist, scientist, or technology professional. And most importantly, what happened to free choice? Having a certain degree does not guarantee that you are destined for a huge salary. In fact a fellow Marine today told me that her son graduated from collage this May and his degree is in business. He is now teaching in a middle school and as we all know, teachers are not exactly the highest paid.
While STEM is the focus of most Republicans and it should be a focus, another movement, called STEAM has taken off. STEAM is Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. You may ask why is art included? Art provides critical thinking and with the STEAM movement, art is used to place Art and Design at the center of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math movement). If the arts are cut, then we will see less critical thinkers that are needed to solve our design problems of the future. Design consists more than just interior designing, example we face tremendous urban, environmental, and rural design challenges in the future. We have to train future students to solve problems that we do not know of right now for the future.
So with decreased art funding, what will replace these critical thinkers? Who will solve the design issues of the future? Who will ensure that we still have classical musicians and fine artists?
As we do not know what Trump will or wont do in the White House as his entire campaign has been one up and down statement after another, with many retractions and lies, it is hard to say what he may or may not do for the arts. But with a Republican controlled Congress we know their history of cutting the arts as much as possible and anything that is culturally minded.
I close by saying that things you can do to help stem off the more than certain decrease in art funding is to support your local libraries, go to their local book sales, support your local arts council, and support like minded music organizations. And most importantly if a cultural organization or location closes in your town, let your politicians know that you are not happy about it and exercise your unhappiness by not voting for politicians who want to stamp out the arts and voting for those that are art champions.