A Statement from Shine Global on Funding for the NEA

A still from Shine Global's 2012 Academy Award®-winning short documentary, Inocente

A still from Shine Global’s 2012 Academy Award®-winning short documentary, Inocente

As you may have heard, the recently proposed FY 18 federal budget eliminates funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, along with 16 other independent agencies.  Shine Global wishes to join the hundreds of artists and organizations expressing dismay over these cuts.  The NEA plays a vital role in the cultural life of the US, as well as being an economic driver of a thriving arts and culture industry.

The budget of the NEA represents a tiny portion of the overall Federal Budget – about 0.004% or 46 cents per American per year.  Founded in 1965 by President Lyndon Johnson, the NEA’s current annual appropriation amount is just under $148 million.  To compare, this is one third of what the US budget allocated last year for military bands alone.  And internationally, the Canada Council for the Arts budgets eight times as much, on a per-person basis, with plans to double that by 2021.  Cutting these programs will not balance the budget but will have an extremely negative effect on those benefiting from the work of NEA-supported artists and organizations.

Each year, the NEA supports programs of art and education in every congressional district of the US, strengthening the creative capacity of our communities, celebrating our rich cultural heritage, and promoting equal access to the arts in every community across the country.  Most of the NEA’s grants are awarded to small and mid-sized nonprofit groups, and many are targeted at both urban and rural economically disadvantaged communities.

We at Shine have seen first-hand the impact of the arts on people.  Our Academy-Award® winning short documentary film Inocente followed the story of a homeless 15-year-old girl who found hope and support through an after-school arts program in San Diego.  She now is a working artist but has served as an inspiration for the hundreds of thousands of people who have seen the film.  Inocente was even screened for members of Congress in 2013 to show them a personal angle on the importance of funding for the arts.

The NEA has supported our new IGNITE program which brings our films and companion materials to underserved youth who do not have regular access to high quality documentaries or the tools to engage with them.  With the support of the NEA, we are able to bring them a valuable and inspirational experience through the community film screenings.  In addition to sparking an appreciation for film, educating about new issues, and encouraging critical thinking, the IGNITE program inspires viewers to try new things, see the world in a new light, and have hope.  One middle school teacher reported: “I showed this film and taught the lesson plans to help a group of struggling 8th grade English learners, who have lost all hope and ability to “dream,” to once again believe in a better tomorrow.”  Youth themselves have reached out to tell us how inspirational a film was and how it has made them think differently about their own situation – and have hope for improvement.  This emotional impact is just as important as the exposure to film, new ideas, and learning opportunities.

The NEA not only supports Americans expressing our values and culture, but it also supports our economy.  According to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, arts and culture is a $704 billion industry, comprising 4.2 percent of the nation’s GDP. The nonprofit arts industry alone generates $135 billion in economic activity each year and returns $22.3 billion in government revenue.

When Congress enacted the National Foundation of the Arts and Humanities Act back in 1965, they affirmed a conviction that the arts and humanities are vital to the health and progress of the US.  And they were building on a tradition of the Federal government supporting the arts.  In his first annual message, President George Washington told Congress “there is nothing which can better deserve your patronage than the promotion of science and literature.” And Presidents year after year continued to affirm the importance of the arts to our continued prosperity.  The United States Constitution itself mandates that Congress be empowered to promote the “Progress of Science and useful Arts.”

The arts are not a partisan issue.  Every president since the NEA’s inception has continued to support its work.  The arts and humanities serve us all and public support is vital to ensure our common participation and common heritage.

The proposed budget is under reviewIf you’d like to join the conversation, please visit the Americans for the Arts’s Action Center to send a customizable message to your elected representatives. Be sure to share on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media with #ArtsVote, #SaveTheNEA, #StandfortheArts and tag your elected officials.