Local advocacy for artists and arts organizations has become a higher-stakes proposition, as President Trump’s 2018 budget proposal, titled A New Foundation for American Greatness, suggests eliminating funding for the arts and shutting down the National Endowments of the Arts and Humanities.

The president’s proposal cuts the NEA budget from $150 million to $29 million, enough for the agency to shut down in an orderly fashion, a NEA spokesperson said, adding it was fully funded for this fiscal year and would continue to award and honor existing grants. The proposal also eliminates the Institute for Museum and Library Services and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which helps fund PBS and NPR.

The California Desert Arts Council (CDAC) believes communities like ours must mobilize to support the arts, which fuels our economy, attracts tourism, enhances quality of life, and shapes well-rounded, open-minded individuals capable of creative problem solving.

To ensure a thriving, progressive Coachella Valley, the community must safeguard and grow its cultural assets. This requires leaders in business, tourism, education, and public office to work together to support the arts with fervor and determination.

Locally, NEA grants have supported education programs by Palm Springs International Film Society and notable exhibitions at Palm Springs Art Museum, according to a Desert Sun report. This year, a NEA grant is paying for a feasibility study of an open-air amphitheater and festival venue near the Cathedral City Civic Center. The president’s proposal to eliminate the NEA comes as the city is asserting its “Where art lives” campaign to attract visual and performing artists to its affordable housing studio/practice space, gallery scene in the Perez Road Art District, and growing number of cultural events and activities. And the Hi-Desert Cultural Center in Joshua Tree recently won a $10,000 NEA grant to support its summer theater, music, and arts education programs for K-12 students.

A NEA grant award also enables local arts and culture organizations to attract additional funding. Every NEA grant dollar leverages another $9 from other public and private sources. While precious few federal arts dollars come directly to the Coachella Valley and High Desert, they often augment state funding, which is accessible through the California Arts Council (CAC) grant programs, or via pass-through organizations. Without NEA support, the capacity of the CAC and other grant-giving organizations will shrink.

In the Coachella Valley, the creative sector generates almost $1 billion in annual economic impact and accounts for about 1 in 5 employed people, according to the Creative California Desert Economic Study completed five years ago.

While the president’s budget blueprint is only a proposal and will meet resistance on Capitol Hill, it punctuates his policy priorities, which plainly exclude support of arts and culture.

Arts and culture are important not only because they challenge our understanding and help us interpret our experiences and empathize with others, but also because they:

• Define the character and express the values of our communities.
• Provide a livelihood for our visual and performing artists.
• Foster collaboration, creativity, innovation, and civic engagement.
• Boost local business.
• Improve academic performance.
• Bridge cultural and socio-economic divides.
• Encourage empathy and tolerance.

There are many ways to support the transformative power of the arts: buying art, furnishings, clothes, and décor from artists; going to live performances; visiting museums or galleries; making art and organizing creative happenings; participating in cultural traditions; sharing experiences on social media; and encouraging others to do the same. We suggest starting with these four ideas:

Support the California Desert Arts Council at www.cadesertarts.org. CDAC unifies, empowers, and promotes the arts community in the Coachella Valley and High Desert through its programs in cultural tourism, business and professional development, education, and advocacy.
Write to your U.S. representatives and senators and explain why they must oppose the president’s proposal and provide full funding for the NEA. California is represented on the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee by committee Chairman, U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert of California’s 42nd District in Riverside County, and on the Senate Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
Speak up on social media. Use the hashtags #ArtsVote #SaveTheNea #StandfortheArts and tag your elected officials.
Arm yourself with facts at the Americans for the Arts Mobilization Center

An investment in the arts is an investment in our region’s long-term growth, vitality, and quality of life.

PHOTO: Pyramid Procession by Chris Sanchez, aka “Kas Infinite”