Guest Blogger: Katherine Fritz
Katherine is a woman in her twenties who lives in Philadelphia. She has a blog about that.
I am an artist. I live in Philadelphia. I'm one of many artists who live and work in Philadelphia, and my story isn't unique. I mention it today, though, because I want to use it to talk to you about budgets.
The incoming administration has proposed a series of budget cutbacks in the next fiscal year, including the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The NEA, which provides grants to artists and arts-driven organizations, and the NEH, which provides grants to scholars, museums, libraries, and documentarians, together disperse about $313 million dollars into the economy.
It's actually about .004 percent of the federal budget spending.
It's also incredibly significant to a lot of people like me.
See, when I say that I live in Philadelphia, I do so because it's a great city for me to make my way as an artist. I chose it because it boasts a thriving city for theatre, plenty of places to employ me as a designer, a teacher, and a writer. As part of my daily occupation, I pay money to the city whenever I park my car or pay my taxes. In my work as a designer, I see dozens of small-business owners on a regular basis: the guy who adjusts watches or replaces broken eyeglass lenses; the woman who repairs worn-out shoes and sells shoe polish; the fabric store where I buy discount lace and trim and buttons and needles; the craft store where I buy paint and glue. Whenever I help make a piece of theatre, I leave behind a product: a reason for people to drive to the city, pay to park their cars, who need a place to eat dinner beforehand or a place to grab a drink afterwards. It's well-documented that a thriving culture sector helps boost the economy, and that government funding only increases economic success: just ask other countries who invest much, much more in their cultural funding and who reap immense rewards.
Why care about the proposed cuts to the budget? Because they affect me, so in turn, they affect small businesses, and so they will, in turn, effect you.
Or perhaps you, as I do, have a secondary concern. Perhaps you, as I do, think that art is also valuable for its own sake.
Perhaps you know intrinsically that the power of art is often invisible, and potently powerful. Perhaps you also know that its worth is immeasurable and essential. Perhaps you also understand that tyrants throughout history have feared it, and tried to eliminate it. Perhaps you also know that it is the way we communicate, the way we remember, the way we affirm what we value, the way we change the way we think.
This budget cut is a tangible threat to our well-being, and the well-being of those around us. (In contrast, let's look at the proposed spending for a wall designed to keep others out of our country). But it also represents a threat to our values. If you value what art and the humanities give us as a people, we encourage you to call your representatives today.
We also encourage you to take these words from Patton Oswalt:
"And then -- IF you can afford it -- go find a struggling theater company and pay to see whatever play they're putting on. Or a struggling art gallery or music club or museum. Leave 'em money and see what they're about. Go see an indie film that's got stellar reviews and no audience. Or a new restaurant or other small business that needs friends and customers. Download a new band. Go to an independent bookstore and buy something from a small press. Go to an open mike. Or see any comedian. Tip your barista or barkeep a little extra.In other words, do all of the cultural and aesthetic things that Trump thinks are worthless. Make a whole big chunk of existence suddenly spike in importance. And then keep doing that, if you can."
Art matters. You do, too.
Seeds for Action
Seeds for Action is a Philadelphia based cohort focused on taking the barriers out of social justice and activism and translating the emotions of the last election into accessable dire