Do Not Defund the NEA and NEH

NOTE: The following is an open letter I wrote today to the board and staff of the Pickford Film Center, the non-profit organization where I serve as board president.
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Dear fellow Board Members, fellow arts supporters, and members of the greater Bellingham community,
The Pickford needs your help. America needs your help. There is some indication from the White House that funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is in jeopardy. We need your help to take action to prevent this, not only for the Pickford’s sake, but for that of all arts organizations who do vital work in their communities around the country. I urge you to do what you can to protect and defend the NEA and NEH, because the arts and humanities are vital to our communities and to our democracy.
It appears that the current administration and congress plan to defund the NEA and NEH for some inscrutable partisan purpose, but the math is simple: these two endowments comprise a truly minuscule portion of the federal budget – each receives approximately $148 million annually. That may sound like a lot, but combined it is only four one-thousandths of one percent of the total federal budget. To put that in perspective, if the annual federal budget were an annual household budget of $50,000, the NEA/NEH portion would be only $2.00.
The expenditure is comparatively minuscule, but the benefit to communities is immense.
For example, since 2014, Pickford Film Center has received close to $20,000 from the NEA through the Washington State Arts Commission to support Doctober, our annual documentary film festival. In 2016, PFC received $7500 from the NEH through Humanities Washington to support Media Literacy workshops. In 2017, Pickford Film Center is currently scheduled to receive $10,000 from the NEA Art Works program to support all of our curated series and festivals.
All of this funding the PFC has received supports programs that are about inquiry, film history, foreign cultures, families, and children. These funds allow Pickford Film Center to bring in diverse films that might not otherwise be seen in this community, keep ticket prices low, raise awareness, and serve our community. They provide a vital link in distinguishing Pickford Film Center as an important service to our community. These funds enable ALL members of our community to participate in film and to have their perspectives broadened. Film has always been one of the most truly democratic art forms we have in this country, and Pickford Film Center exists to provide a forum for celebrating and advancing this aspect of our culture.
So please join me in a couple of three small actions that will help lend support for this vital piece of the federal budget, and feel free to forward this email to other arts supporters you know:
  1. If you can do nothing else, there’s a petition at the White House web site. Please sign it: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/do-not-defund-nea-or-neh-0
  2. Call or Write your congresspeople too, urging them to protect NEA and NEH funding in the federal budget.
  3. No matter what happens, keep supporting the arts and humanities. Whatever it is that you most enjoy, be it the cinema, the ballet, the symphony, the opera, the museum, the theatre … please keep supporting them as an audience member, an advocate, and (if you are able) as a donor. Our democracy depends on it.
Thank you.
Brian Sibley
President, Board of Directors
Pickford Film Center
Bellingham, Washington

 

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