Berkeley arts, humanities could be impacted by Trump’s proposed 2018 budget

Emily Zhong/Staff

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The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, or BAMPFA, and the Berkeley Repertory Theatre could lose federal funding if President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget is approved.

The budget proposal, which was introduced Thursday, would eliminate all $148 million in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, $148 million in funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities and all $445 million in funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

According to BAMPFA director Lawrence Rinder, the museum receives substantial funding from federal agencies, which provide the museum with critical support for many of its initiatives.

“The wholesale elimination of the NEA and its sister agencies would be detrimental not only to the work we do here at BAMPFA but also to the arts ecology of the Bay Area,” Rinder said in an emailed statement.

The Berkeley Repertory Theatre has also received NEA grants in the past, according to Susan Medak, the theater’s managing director. Medak added that Berkeley has one of the highest concentrations of art organizations per capita in the country, all of which are distinguished and receive funding from the NEA.

Medak said a discontinuation of the NEA would have effects beyond a loss of grant money for organizations. According to Medak, the most important aspect of NEA funding is that it leverages additional funding from other sources, because it increases the credibility of the organization.

“This distinctive combination of public and private support enables arts organizations to make irreplaceable contributions to the economic, cultural, educational, and civic health of local communities—benefits that reach well beyond core arts audiences,” Rinder said in his emailed statement.

In addition to impacting the Berkeley arts community, the proposed funding cuts would hurt campus projects that are supported by the NEH, such as the Mark Twain Papers and the digitization of ancient writings, according to Linda Rugg, campus professor of Scandinavian studies.

Rugg traveled to Washington, D.C., earlier this month to represent the campus’s arts and humanities department on Humanities Advocacy Day. The event, which was organized by the National Humanities Alliance, was composed of a variety of humanities organizations. Rugg noted that the event this year was “particularly important” because of rumors regarding funding cuts for arts and humanities.

Rugg said she was impressed by the staffers she lobbied to and called the protection of the humanities a “full-force effort.” According to Rugg, Democratic staffers said most Republicans aren’t opposed to the NEA and NEH, and they were hopeful about supporting these programs.

Rinder and Medak both encouraged supporters of the Berkeley arts community to take action in defending the arts. BAMPFA is directing its visitors to resources that will “help them make their voices heard,” Rinder said in his emailed statement.

“Phone calls and emails and marches do not fall on deaf ears; complacency is our greatest enemy. Anybody who cares about this should be calling state representatives,” Medak said.

Contact Ella Jensen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ellajensen_dc.