Museum directors have been on edge ever since The Hill reported that Donald Trump was going to cut government funding of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). With the threat of abolishment looming in the air, most museum directors have remained silent on the issue… until now.
Last week, Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, broke the ice. Campbell published an op-ed in the New York Times that condemned budgetary cuts of the NEA. Now, several other museum directors are speaking out, too.
Peggy Fogelman of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Paul Ha of the MIT List Visual Arts Center, Jill Medvedow of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Martha Tedeschi of the Harvard Art Museums, and Matthew Teitelbaum of the Museum of Fine Arts have all signed a letter that urges the federal government to continue supporting the NEA and NEH. The letter reads as follows:
As directors of Boston’s art museums, we serve as stewards of the public trust. So, we are alarmed at reports that the National Endowment for the Arts is under threat of being abolished, along with the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Each of these entities champions art and culture in communities across America.
In Boston, NEA and NEH funding has been instrumental at each of our museums, supporting our extensive programs of public access, teaching and scholarship, conservation, collection and exhibition. NEA and NEH grants supported the digitization and cataloging of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s singular collection; acquisition funds for works of art by American artists of color in The Heritage Fund for a Diverse Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the forthcoming exhibition Animal-Shaped Vessels from the Ancient World: Feasting with Gods, Heroes, and Kings at the Harvard Art Museums; the restoration of American artist Kenneth Noland’s only public art piece at MIT; and transformative art education programs for Boston public school middle and high school students at the ICA.
Federal support has been a critical piece of the puzzle for museums in our shared mission to foster knowledge, create cultural exchange, generate jobs and tourism, educate our youth, ignite the imagination of our audiences and nurture the creativity of working artists. Across the country – in communities small and large, urban and rural — the NEA and NEH help to guarantee access to the arts and the preservation and presentation of diverse cultural expression. The prestige and visibility of the NEA and NEH connects our entire cultural community, though we are well aware of the outsized influence of federal dollars at our most vulnerable arts institutions across America.
On Wednesday, our colleague Thomas Campbell of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times eloquently outlining how every museum relies not only on financial support but also on the advocacy of the NEA to strengthen communities through the arts.
We share the belief that access to the arts is at the core of a democratic and equitable society. During this moment of heightened national discord, the elimination of the NEA and NEH is not a cut our country can afford.
Art is, at its best, a dialogue. We hope that you’ll participate in the conversation about the importance of federal funding for the arts and join us as stewards of the public good.
Peggy Fogelman, Norma Jean Calderwood Director, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Paul Ha, Director, MIT List Visual Arts Center
Jill Medvedow, Ellen Matilda Poss Director, Institute of Contemporary Art
Martha Tedeschi, Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director, Harvard Art Museums
Matthew Teitelbaum, Ann and Graham Gund Director, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston