It’s not as dangerous as chucking out “Meals on Wheels,” but the Trump administration’s gutting of the National Endowment of the Arts could still be catastrophic. Last year the agency only cost about $150 million to fund, or how much it would cost to ensure Melania doesn’t have to sleep in the same bed as her husband for 150 days. And yet the new national budget laid out by Team Trump removes all of it — a conservative pipe dream since all the way back in the ’60s, when Mr. Rogers himself had to sit before a Senate committee and patiently explain why defunding Big Bird would make the world a worse place.
Of course, it’s not just the presumed deathless “Sesame Street” that would be affected. Since the budget’s premiere last week, untold celebrities, artists and journos have stepped forth to proclaim why such-and-such a beloved work of art would never have been possible without at least some assistance from the NEA. The L.A. Weekly claimed, among other things, that without the agency there would be no “Hamilton.”
Now Robert Redford has stepped into the ring. In an open letter posted on Sunday, he described how the Sundance Institute was born out of NEA funds. A grant helped them launch their very first filmmaking labs, which later helped birth the Sundance Film Festival. If you’re unmoved by his overtures to art and diversity, consider that films also mean jobs.
“That first promising investment from the NEA, and their belief in my project was vital to launching programs that now support tens of thousands of American artists working in film and theater and new media,” Redford explained.
“The NEA also very clearly helped us create the Sundance Film Festival, which turned into the leading international showcase for new voices and new artists to launch their work and find audiences for stories outside the mainstream,” he went on. “No one has been more surprised than me at how far it’s gone, and today the Festival brings millions of dollars of revenue to Utah over a 10-day period – proving that art can be an economic force.”
When fighting back against giggling righties who don’t want tax dollars going to artsy-fartsy types, it would be best to stress the economic impact this would have, less so on what it would do to culture. They don’t care about that. Of course, you could also shame them with damning cartoons like this.
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge