Budget cuts threaten NEA, several cultural organizations in Queens

City Comptroller Scott Stringer (c) warns cuts in funding to the National Endowment for the Arts will cost thousands of jobs in New York City.
Photo courtesy of the office of Scott Stringer
By Bill Parry

More than a dozen of the borough’s arts organizations would be affected by the Trump administration’s threat to eliminate funding for the National Endowment of the Arts, City Comptroller Scott Stringer warned, costing thousands of jobs in New York City.

The Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts, the New York Hall of Science, the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning and the Calpulli Mexican Dance Company are among the 15 organizations in Queens that appear on a list provided by the comptroller’s office.

“New York City is the cultural capital of the world, but with NEA funding on the chopping block, hundreds of cultural organizations — and the children they serve — could suffer,” Stringer said. “Cultural groups add to the vibrancy of our neighborhoods and the fabric of our city. They educate our children, broaden their minds, and teach them to think critically. It would be simply wrong for the White House to make the arts its latest target. Our kids and our communities would be hurt the most.”

Between 2000 to 2016, the number of Queens recipients increased 43 percent while grants totaling $3.3 million were provided to borough-based cultural organizations.

The NEA today represents just 0.0037 percent of federal spending, far lower than its 1979 peak of 0.03 percent when it reached a high of $471 million. In 2016, the Endowment’s funding was just $148 million.

“While the NEA is just a small share of the federal budget, it has an outsized impact, especially on smaller arts groups for whom these dollars are critical lifelines,” Stringer said. “We need to stand up for those that receive dollars from the NEA — and the kids they serve.”

According to Stringer’s analysis, cultural organizations in New York City received $233 million in NEA funding between 2000 and 2016, including $21 million for organizations specifically providing arts education. In the last fiscal year, organizations in the city received $148 million.

In 2016, this funding touched 419 organizations in the five boroughs, allowing them to expand programs, elevate their profiles and — by leveraging the credibility that an NEA grant bestows — attract more donors and institutional sponsors. Without NEA funding, and the additional resources it attracts, organizations across the city would very likely have to cut staff and reduce programming that often serves young people, particularly in low-income communities.

“NEA funding helps ensure New York City’s public school students and families have equitable access to the power and thrill of art, culture, and heritage education,” The Center for Arts Education Executive Director Lisa Robb said. “Hundreds of thousands of our residents benefit from the formal and informal learning that NEA grants support through countless local organizations.”

The NEA recently celebrated its 50th year supporting the arts. Former President Ronald Reagan was the first to suggest eliminating the agency during budget cuts in 1981.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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