In 2011, a University of London study discovered that when subjects looked at a beautiful painting, blood flow to the “joy response” portion of the brain increased by 10%. When you experience art that touches you in some way — be it sculpture, dance, theater, music, or any other kind — the brain reacts as if you’re looking at a loved one. But if Trump’s proposed cuts to arts funding go through, that elation may be much harder to come by in Arizona.
In the budget blueprint that was released on March 16, Trump outlined his plans for cuts to federal funding. The blueprint eliminates the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. This means that arts, culture, and even public radio and TV are all on the chopping block.
Of these agencies, the best-known is the NEA, which gives 40% of its funding to state and regional grant organizations. In Arizona, the NEA funds state art agencies like the the Arizona Commission on the Arts, as well as arts organizations, theatre companies, and other groups, from Arizona Opera and the Phoenix Film Foundation to community choruses and children’s theatre productions.
The mission of Arizona Commission on the Arts is to increase arts access for all Arizona citizens. Primarily, it’s funded through federal and state budgets. During the 2016 fiscal year, it received $797,900 from the NEA, representing about one-third of their operating budget. This year, the money they received from the NEA represents only about a fifth of what they need.
In addition to what the commission gets each year, the NEA gives approximately $1.5 million in grants directly to arts groups across the state, which directly benefits Arizona residents. The elimination of the NEA could mean that many of the events Arizonians currently enjoy would no longer exist. Admittedly, the cuts might not affect some of the state’s major organizations like Ballet Arizona or the Phoenix Art Museum. But the cultural landscape would likely dwindle significantly, especially in small towns and rural communities that depend on this federal funding.
The impact wouldn’t be felt just by art lovers, either. A recent study conducted by Americans for the Arts found that nonprofit arts organizations contribute $500 million per year to the Arizona economy, including $300 just in the metro Phoenix area.
Kevin Vaughan-Brubaker, public art manager at Scottsdale Public Art, summed up to Arizona Sonora News: ” “If the NEA was eliminated, it would have a huge negative impact on not just the art community, but on communities in general.”
But Bob Booker, executive director for Arizona Commission on the Arts, cautioned in a letter to the public that the actual proposal for the cuts has yet to be released, and to not panic just yet.