Arts Alerts: Minnesota And Possible Threats to the NEA

Minnesota and Possible Threats to the
National Endowment for the Arts

Recently, The Hill newspaper reported that two members of the Trump transition team met with career White House staff members to “outline their plans for shrinking the federal bureaucracy,” including the possibility of eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities and privatizing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.


 What’s important to know?

  • First, you should know that this is not an official proposed budget, but rather a report on a conversation. This is not yet a budget proposal.
  • Second, according to Americans for the Arts’ Arts Action Fund, which documented the arts policy positions of every Presidential candidate during the elections, President Trump said, “…supporting and advocating for appreciation of the arts is important to an informed and aware society. As President, I would take on that role.” Specifically regarding appropriations for the National Endowment for the Arts, President Trump said, “The Congress, as representatives of the people, make the determination as to what the spending priorities ought to be.”
  • Third, The good news is, there are many strong supporters of the arts, on both sides of the aisle, in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Floor votes on eliminating the cultural agencies have been a fruitless pantomime that happens nearly every year, which are soundly defeated because there are many supporters of the arts and culture among the Republican caucus, in addition to the strong supporters of the cultural agencies among Democrats. You can’t assume that even if President Trump does eventually propose something, that it will pass this Congress.
  • Fourth, Minnesota Citizens for the Arts is part of an active, expert, integrated network of statewide and national organizations and leaders paying attention to and working for the arts, arts education, and creative economy. We are all “on” this right now.
  • Fifth, it’s wwwaaayyy early in the game when it comes to details and concrete plans. A full executive budget proposal is expected towards the end of Trump’s first 100 days – by the end of April – with a preliminary version out within the first 45 days. There are many decision-making points in our federal process including the White House, Congressional budget resolution, Congressional appropriations committees, and the full House and Senate. The federal budget process requires extensive public participation, so each of these branches and stages are touch points for advocacy. Whether or not these policy recommendations will come to pass is a big unknown, but we’re still going to pay careful attention and act as needed.
  • Finally, Minnesotans are fortunate in that the majority of our members of Congress are already members of the Arts Caucus that works to promote and defend the work of the cultural agencies. In fact, Rep. Betty McCollum of St. Paul is the lead Democrat on the Interior-Environment Subcommittee Committee that funds the NEA in the House, as well as a member of the House Appropriations Committee. U.S. Senators Franken and Klobuchar, as well as U.S. Reps. Walz, Paulsen, McCollum, Ellison, Peterson and Nolan are all members of their respective Arts Caucus. In fact, it might be simpler to just list the two who have not yet joined the Arts Caucus; Reps. Emmer, and brand new Rep. Jason Lewis, (and as far as we’re concerned that’s just because we haven’t gotten to him yet).


How Would Minnesota be impacted if the NEA were deleted?

Current national funding for the NEA is $146 million. NEA grants to Minnesota totaled $5M in 2016.


How Does NEA funding get to Minnesota?

In two ways:

  1. 40% of all NEA funds are sent directly to state arts agencies – Minnesota’s state agency is the Minnesota State Arts Board – which are then matched by state dollars. The Arts Board, using both NEA and state funding, along with our Regional Arts Councils, which use mostly state funding, provide grant funding for organizations and projects throughout the state, and technical assistance and leadership development to people making the arts happen on the local level. The combined federal and state funding supports programs that positively impact the economy, education and quality of life for everyone, everywhere in Minnesota.
  2. In addition to the agency funding, a total of 73 grants were made to various arts organizations in Minnesota by the NEA directly. Minnesota’s arts organizations tend to be more successful than the organizations in other states in the competitive NEA grant making process because they are so awesome. There has been at least one grant in every Congressional District this past year.


What can you do?

  • Be prepared to make the case about the value and impact of the arts in the upcoming days and weeks. Minnesota Citizens for the Arts and Americans for the Arts will help you tell your stories to decision-makers, and let you know when and where your voice can make a difference.
  • SIGN UP TO ATTEND Arts Advocacy Day in St. Paul on Feb. 28. When we come together with one voice, we carry more weight not only with our state leaders, but also on the federal level. Attending Minnesota’s Arts Advocacy Day and encouraging more support of the arts here at home allows our Congressional representatives to draw a clear line from NEA funding to impact at home. State arts funding is around $39 million per year and reaches into every single state legislative district. It’s state funding we will be working to support on Feb. 28.  Arts Advocacy Day will begin at the Minnesota Historical Society Auditorium with the release of the Creative Minnesota 2017 study at 8AM, a short organizing rally where you will meet with your team of advocates at 9AM, and then from 10AM – 2PM teams will meet with legislators to educate them about the arts in Minnesota. PLEASE REGISTER so we can get you connected with your team!
  • Make sure you are signed on with the state and national networks that connect you to the latest information and actions:

Minnesota Citizens for the Arts:

National Action:


It’s important not to panic, and it’s important to be positive, pro-active, and vigilant. Investment in the arts and creativity is a proven strategy for building better lives and strengthening communities in Minnesota and beyond. It’s never been more important to focus on what matters – inspiration, imagination, creativity, and community. We’ll stay ahead of news and stay proactive to make the case for the arts locally and nationally as events unfold, and will keep you informed of news and actions.



Sheila Smith

Executive Director


A sampling of media on the issue: