While no government can call a great artist or scholar into existence, it is necessary and appropriate for the Federal Government to help create and sustain not only a climate encouraging freedom of thought, imagination, and inquiry but also the material conditions facilitating the release of this creative talent.
—From the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities Act of 1965
It is perhaps only when a once-held and shared belief appears to be dying that an act of Congress begins to read a bit like poetry. In March, the current administration confirmed that the proposed budget for 2018 eliminates a number of independent agencies including the National Endowment for the Arts. As the budget has now entered the review process, it is crucial that we in the literary community act and make our thoughts on this matter known to our congressional representatives.
The NEA has awarded funding to the Kenyon Review for over 20 years. These funds have supported every aspect of our program from our online offerings to the publication of the journal itself. It is through the NEA’s generous gifts that we have been able to move forward with exciting new initiatives like last fall’s special science writing feature that appeared concurrently in our print journal, on KROnline, and in a lively blog discussion. NEA funding has also made possible the recent launch of KR Reviews, an ongoing project to consolidate all of our book reviews into a powerful web portfolio accessible through the KR site. The elimination of the NEA will significantly hinder these innovations.
Beyond the Kenyon Review, the NEA’s role in supporting the larger cultural infrastructure of our country is essential. It is the largest single funder of the arts in our nation. Though the percentage of the federal budget allotted to the NEA is negligible (.004 percent), these monies play a vital role in fueling our country’s cultural economy. For over 50 years, every Congressional District in the U.S. has received yearly arts grants from the NEA to support local art and art education initiatives. This effectively leverages state and local funding for museums, libraries, and other small, independent arts agencies.
Now is the time to express our support of an agency that has supported us for so long and call for the continued funding of the NEA, or as our editor David Lynn put it, “to defend those aspects of our communal life that can only flourish outside a market economy.” Please join us now in advocating for the arts.
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