Art expands one’s view of the world; from the four walls of your room, music can transport you sonically to a different culture and from the gallery of a local museum, an artists’ perspective grants you an open window into other worlds. Unfortunately, the arts have repeatedly endured the gauntlet within the school system and society at large. Every year representatives from the arts community must descend on Washington, D.C., to lobby for arts funding.
While President Trump’s proposed budget and its effects are still being unpacked, we are seeing the elimination of funding for 19 agencies. Congress has final approval of the president’s request which include funds being cut for cultural groups like the National Endowment for the Arts. Some 700 art proponents gathered this week in the nation’s capital to fight to keep their funding.
The NEA supports arts groups across the country, including major institutions in big cities, as well as smaller programs in overlooked rural areas. To illustrate just how beneficial their work has been, artist and environmental engineer Tega Brain has programmed a website that scrolls through the types of grants awarded last year alone. The information provided on Brain’s site makes abundantly clear that the NEA is an essential government agency that benefits a vast array of citizens across the U.S.
Congress has questioned the value of the National Endowment for the Arts since its inception 52 years ago, and conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation have long called the NEA “little more than a direct subsidy to the cultured, upper-middle class.” But it would also mean the end of grants for dance, opera, writing, film, theater and other art-focused organizations in every state across the country — many of them smaller groups in rural communities. Now, in his proposed budget, President Donald Trump suggested defunding the endowment, along with other cultural groups, entirely. “The federal government should not be in the business of funding the arts,” the Republican Study Committee echoed in its own budget report.
The “struggling artist” conundrum, however, still finds creative ways to share its richness with the world because music, and the arts in general, can be a powerful force for good. The founder and CEO of the MusicianShip organization, Jeffery Tribble, recently shared his thoughts on the importance of the arts and its role in the community amidst the present political environment.
‘The Arts’ increase socio-emotional skills, discipline, self-esteem, teamwork and confidence … improving students’ life trajectory – getting them into college, getting them off the street, getting them jobs.
“Through after-school programs and also through summer programs, the MusicianShip delivers music lessons, experiences and opportunities for primarily at-risk youth. There are already budget cuts at the local and federal levels to arts programs directly in schools, but to then to cut the programs that help to undergird the school systems’ programs and that kind of serve as a catch-basin to assist for the lack of arts programming and funding that’s already there, it’s tremendously more detrimental and it really disallows our young people to receive the arts programming that they deserve.”
Mr. Tribble believes the musical training provided by the organization, based in Washington, D.C., is valuable, and emphasized that its true mission is to improve his students’ “life trajectory – getting them into college, getting them off the street, getting them jobs.” A musician himself, he has experienced firsthand that music increases “socio-emotional skills, discipline, self-esteem and confidence.”
Speaking of other creative ideas to keep the art alive, Mr. Tribble has a cool, new way to get the message out and find an additional stream of income for his program. “I just had this idea of wanting to engage urban millennial music enthusiasts — not just musicians, but folks who just love music generally — with a clothing line,” he said of the new set of shirts, “and I felt like doing it through The MusicianShip was the best way to go as it would help to raise money for the kids that we serve and the free-of-charge programs that we run in inner-city schools.”
If you want to help the youth of Washington, if you want to do your part to Support Arts Education, if you want to express your love of music while looking fly — you can purchase one of The MusicianShip’s shirts on their site OR Call your local representatives.