Local cultural groups fear Trump budget cuts

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By Hannah Strong

Leaders of arts and cultural groups in Lancaster County expect to be scrambling for new revenue sources if President Trump’s proposed cuts to federal programs take effect.
The president’s 2018 budget plan would eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services – programs that have built and funded arts programs in Lancaster County for many years.
The Lancaster County School District receives $50,000 annually from the S.C. Arts Commission, a state program funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). That money pays for the district’s Arts in Basic Curriculum (ABC) program.
David Platts, LCSD fine arts specialist, said the ABC program impacts roughly 2,840 district students through its artist-in-residence program, bringing 20 to 25 artists to schools each year. It also pays for professional development and art supplies.
“Somebody else would have to rescue us” if the funds are cut, Platts said.
LCSD receives support through a partnership with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, an NEA-backed national arts center.
The partnership provides professional training – worth $25,000 annually – for district teachers to integrate art into lessons.
Platts said this particular program impacts students countywide.
“It’s heartbreaking that we’ve done this work and that we depend on those funds to make learning come alive,” Platts said. “We know that kids need those kinds of opportunities.”
Lancaster County Council of the Arts receives a small amount in matched grants from the S.C. Arts Commission annually.
LCCA Executive Director Debbie Jaillette said the cut would “absolutely” impact the arts council, though nearly all of its operational funds come from business and individual sponsorships.
“A lack of support nationally will reach us somehow,” she said.
The Lancaster schools, the arts council and the city of Lancaster have a three-pronged partnership with the Kennedy Center.
The center supports arts and sciences camps, youth art month and the banners and cube décor around the city.
Another program potentially facing a hit is the Native American Studies Center.
The construction of the NASC and its Lindsay Pettus Gallery were both partially funded by the NEA.
“Without federal arts and humanities funding, the center and our work might not exist,” said Stephen Criswell, USC Lancaster associate professor of English and Native American studies.
NASC’s “Share a Little of That Human Touch” exhibit and festivities this week wouldn’t have happened without $10,000 in funding from the S.C. Humanities Council – an organization funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Funds for the NASC’s artist-in-residence program – hosting three so far – are from the S.C. Arts Commission.
“The elimination or curtailment of these programs would cripple our efforts in outreach, research and education,” said Chris Judge, assistant director of NASC.
The NEA and NEH were created in 1965. The independent federal agencies provide grants for arts and humanities programs nationally.

Follow reporter Hannah Strong on Twitter @HannahLStrong or contact her at (803) 416-8416.