Following the election of the 45th US President, every irksome, privileged (Facebook) friend has slithered out of the woodwork to remind us that some of the best art emerges out of intolerance and persecution: “At least the art is gonna be so good, man.” This is one of many displays of shortsighted and reductive, even silly, everything-is-going-to-be-okay reasoning.
To be sure, 45’s administration is not easing the process of artmaking. In fact, their proposed budget eliminates the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) (among dozens of other government programs like the Minority Business Development Agency).
This has Republicans creaming their pants, obviously, but the NEA and NEH receive a few thousandths of a percent of the annual budget and have funded such events as a performance paying homage to Pennsylvania’s coal mining industry.
Of course, most NEA- and NEH-funded programming doesn’t mesh so well with the GOP platform. Still, countless communities across the U.S. depend on small NEA and NEH grants to make possible local cultural projects. And although private philanthropic organizations provide the bulk of arts- and humanities-related grants, not all projects are attractive to these big spenders.
Neafunded.us provides a list of such projects undertaken in 2016 and their place of origin. The site highlights the richness and diversity of artistic and cultural ventures funded by the NEA. “A Southeast regional mountain dulcimer festival in Monroeville, Alabama” is listed directly beneath “A national tour of the Ragamala Dance Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota,” for example.
Unsurprisingly, the proposed budget cuts have troubled many, especially those who fear their communities will be unable to raise funds in the NEA’s stead. This is not the first time federal funding of the arts and humanities has been under attack at the hands of conservatives, and it surely won’t be the last.
But the rhetoric of 45 and his gang of squares has a larger anti-factual, anti-intellectual thrust. We have heard from countless reporters and academics who cast aspersions on 45’s messaging. And, as always, artists have got some skin in the game, too.
A mural in Lithuania depicting a steamy, salacious Trump-Putin makeout went viral last spring. The kibosh was put on HEWILLNOTDIVIDEUS, Shia LeBeouf’s anti-Trump installation at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York, last week following a slew of threats of violence.
In Baltimore, musicians like TT the Artist (“F Trump”) and Arts section favorite JPEGMAFIA (“I Might Vote 4 Donald Trump”) have released anti-Trump anthem after anti-Trump anthem. At Hopkins, we heard words of resistance from writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie just last week.
Curators have echoed these sentiments. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York installed pieces by artists from countries targeted in the travel ban, in place of works from their permanent collection.
The Davis Museum at Wellesley College in Massachusetts has removed or shrouded all works created or donated by immigrants and has replaced museum labels associated with the pieces with plaques that read “made by an immigrant” or “given by an immigrant,” calling attention to what is lost when immigrants are undervalued and their rights under attack.
The Loisaida Center in New York is proceeding with a show by Atomic Culture on immigrant rights and police brutality following the censorship of a piece titled “Storefront Sign for the Ungovernable City.”
The piece, originally installed near the center’s entrance, which neighbors a major NYPD station, reads “Police Not Welcome,” and includes audio from the killing of James Boyd by officers of the Albuquerque Police Department.
45 didn’t “inspire” this work; He terrified and enraged creatives and art world glitterati alike who then felt the need to express their disgust.
And let’s not forget that those who face discrimination and abuse under 45 are disproportionately those who deal with (and make art about) that bullsh*t regardless of who’s president.