Alaska art programs face loss of federal funding under Trump budget plan

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Alaska’s art community could face a significant drop in funding after President Donald Trump on Thursday proposed eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts in his federal budget plan for fiscal year 2018.

Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said in a press conference that the president’s budget reduces or eliminates hundreds of federal programs like the NEA in order to improve fiscal responsibility and refocus government spending.

“This budget simply reallocates and re-prioritizes spending as any family or business would do,” Mulvaney told reporters.

During fiscal year 2017, Alaska is slated to receive 12 grants from the NEA totaling about $260,000 for various arts programs across the state. Some of the organizations receiving grants include the Anchorage Opera Company, the Alaska Native Heritage Center and the Anchorage Museum.

According to Anchorage Museum director Julie Decker, the elimination of the NEA would force the institution to offer less exhibitions and opportunities for artists. She says that would be a disservice to the community as a whole.

“It’s a big impact. It’s a lot of exhibitions, programs, education and work with artists that may no longer be possible or may need to be scaled dramatically back,” Decker told Channel 2 on Saturday. “These are community-based programs. They’re really about serving the community and the intent of the NEA is as much about bringing people together as it is about art and artists.”

Another organization that would be affected by the elimination of the NEA is the Alaska Design Forum, a nonprofit that hosts lectures and educational opportunities for artists and architects in major cities throughout the state. According to board president Garrett Burtner, about a third of the Alaska Design Forum’s budget comes from the NEA.

“What that grant does for the organization is give some kind of a baseline stability to the programming. So we'd have to cut back programming,” Burtner said. “Is puts the pressure of funding back on the community.”

Trump’s proposal to eliminate the NEA has also drawn criticism from several Republicans in Congress, including Senator Lisa Murkowski. In a prepared statement, Murkowski stressed that Trump’s budget plan is just a proposal, and will ultimately need approval from Congress before it can move forward.

"The budget blueprint released Thursday is simply a proposal. These agencies and their contributions will be evaluated through the appropriations process with all other discretionary programs,” Murkowski said. “I believe we can find a way to commit to fiscal responsibility while continuing to support the important benefits that NEA and NEH provide."

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