President Donald Trump’s first federal budget plan proposes a complete defunding of both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The potential eliminations could hurt many arts organizations across the state.
Shannon Smith is the Executive Director of the Wyoming Humanities Council, a non-profit and the state’s affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, or the NEH. The organization supports programs, events, speakers, and exhibits that deal with issues of the human experience. The council depends on the NEH for about 70 percent of its funding. Smith said the endowment was first created to bring equal opportunities for the poor and wealthy to experience arts and culture.
"My counterparts in our wealthier states, they’re not going to lose their state councils, because they’re going to have the capacity with their populations to raise the money," said Smith. "But it’s the rural and smaller states that are going to be devastated by this because there is no way for us to counter the kind of money that comes in through this federal investment in Wyoming."
Michael Lange is the Executive Director of the Wyoming Arts Council, which serves as the statewide pass-through entity for the National Endowment for the Arts, or NEA. Lange said the council plays an important role in the economic and social development of Wyoming communities by investing in the arts. 40 percent of their budget comes from the NEA.
Lange said the arts are an economic driver and a tool for education, and vibrancy to communities.
"There’s no doubt that people want to live in a fun place," said Lange. "They want to live in a cool place, a hip place that they want to spend time. And the arts play a major role in helping build a livability of communities so that people will want to look at Wyoming as a place they want to live, a place they want to call home."
Together the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities make up about $300 million of the $1.1 trillion in national spending. Ultimately, the federal budget will be decided by Congress.