The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) are currently leaderless. Although they have acting directors and staffs, both endowments desperately need active leadership—especially in a time of budget cuts.
The New York Times reports that “The House Appropriations Committee has proposed cutting each budget by half. Present financing levels are about $155 million each, a mite in the federal government’s overall $3.5 trillion budget. Even at these modest levels, the endowments are essential to art and enlightenment all across the country, and they help local economies in the bargain.”
The budgets of the NEA and NEH have already been cut significantly in recent years. A 50% cut in their budgets would be simply disastrous for research, teaching, exhibitions, and performances in the arts and humanities.
Many communities’ arts and humanities programs (museum programs, art exhibitions, dance performances, public sculptures, public history, digital humanities projects, public lectures, scholarly conferences, historical preservation projects, student programs, teaching development programs, community college programs, etc.) would be directly affected by the lack of grants and matching funds for local initiatives that are often supported by the NEA and NEH.
In Illinois, the Illinois Humanities Council (IHC) is supported by the NEH, as well as donations and gifts by public and private organizations. The IHC, in turn, has made grants to organizations such as the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, African American Cultural Center of UIC, Springfield Art Association, Bishop Hill Heritage Association, Chicago Metro History Education Center, Instituto Cervantes of Chicago, Illinois Institute For Community Law, Chicago Filmmakers, and New Philadelphia Association. The NEH also directly supports other organizations within Illinois.
An editorial at the New York Times comments on the current situation of the NEA and NEH.