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Statement on the Proposed Defunding of the NEA, NEH, and IMLS

Today we join with countless others who understand the unquestionable value of the arts to our lives, our communities, and our society in taking a firm stand against the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and other federal agencies that provide critical support to the cultural richness of our nation.

The budget proposal released this morning by the Trump administration includes more than $54 billion in cuts to domestic programs, including the elimination of funding for the NEA, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

 Like so many other cultural organizations across the country, the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) receives critical support from these agencies, support that helps bring an extraordinarily wide range of programs and services to our community. In recent years, these agencies have provided funding that has enabled us to mount major art exhibitions and film series, document and preserve irreplaceable collections for future generations, provide educational programs, bring artists and filmmakers to Berkeley for in-person lectures and discussions, and support original research and scholarship.

The importance of these agencies to our community extends well beyond the scope of these grants, however. Receiving an NEA, NEH, or IMLS grant involves a rigorous review process, and the sterling reputation these agencies have built over the decades since their founding imbues their selections with a credibility that lays a strong foundation for support from additional sources. In 2013, for example, BAMPFA received a challenge grant from the NEH that required a three-to-one match from other funding sources. This challenge facilitated more than $2 million in funding to help furnish and equip education and study facilities in our new downtown Berkeley building, which provide access to a wealth of materials to UC faculty, students, and the public. Thousands of other cultural organizations in every state in our country—from rural areas with scant access to the arts, to our urban centers—depend on these federal agencies for core support which they can leverage to build sustainable long-term funding.

The arts and humanities are not simply entertainment, and they are not luxuries. They are essential to our well-being as individuals and to our identity as a nation, and eliminating these agencies, which bring so much to our culture, our economy, and our society, would be a grave mistake.

Lawrence Rinder
Director, UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
March 16, 2017