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A Call to Action: Support US Government Arts and Cultural Agencies

Friday, March 17, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Tim Lloyd
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On March 16, 2017, the Trump administration released its “America First” budget blueprint. We are not surprised by either the breadth or depth of the recommended cuts in that blueprint, given the rhetoric, rumors, and policy rationales that have circulated through Washington over the past two months. In fact, this expectation has shaped our general “wait until the document lands” approach to action alerts. We ask you to act only when we think that the issue is of vital importance and that your actions will make a difference.

It is now time to act. And a heads-up: we are very likely to ask you to act again over the coming months as the budget process proceeds.

The administration’s budget blueprint is breathtaking in its potential negative impact on the work of folklorists and our colleagues in related arts, humanities, and social science disciplines. The blueprint calls for the complete elimination of federal budgetary support for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Title VI International and Foreign Language Education, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. No doubt there is more to be concerned about. It is not yet clear, for example, what the impact of this proposal will be on such federal government agencies as the Library of Congress, the National Archives, the Smithsonian Institution, or other federal government funders of humanities and social science research.

The critical importance of the Arts and Humanities Endowments over the last 50 years to the public and academic sectors of our field are beyond compare. The AFS itself could not provide its current repertoire of services to the field of folklore studies without the NEA and NEH, grants from which currently support our Consultancy and Professional Development Program and National Folklore Archives Initiative, respectively.

Every day we work in close partnership with a number of excellent and energetic libraries and museums, all of whom depend upon IMLS support to continue their research, exhibition, education, and outreach work. The CPB has supported the production and airing of non-commercial television and radio programming on the traditional cultural expressions of our country and of the wider world. Many other organizations and individuals in our field, and artists, community scholars, community-based organizations, and tradition-bearers across our country, have received irreplaceable support for their artistic and cultural work from all these agencies. The funding and other actions of all these federal government agencies mentioned above--and of the state arts and humanities agencies they fund--reach and sustain every cultural group, community, county, state, and region in our country.

Because so much is at stake, we are writing you today to ask you to contact your representatives in Congress as soon as possible to register your strong objection to the massive cuts to programs essential to the cultivation of our national folk cultural heritage and civic culture: the NEA and NEH; foreign language education; funding for museums and libraries through the IMLS; public broadcasting through the CPB; and humanities and social science research. This should be a short message that makes clear the scope of your concerns.

What to do as soon as possible:

This is a moment when each of us as citizens can make an impact on this process. It is imperative that all AFS members who are US citizens contact their US Representatives and Senators as soon as possible, and encourage their partners in folklore work--artists, community activists, and anyone concerned with the cultural heritage of our country--to do the same.

To contact your US Representatives and Senators, you can use one of these three options. No matter which means of communication you choose, please briefly personalize your message by citing concrete examples of the ways in which support from these federal agencies has made a difference in your community and state. If you are employed in the field, mention the institution where you work in your state and/or Congressional district.

1. Make a phone call. All members of Congress can be reached through the US Capitol switchboard at 202/224-3121. A personal phone call is preferable to an e-mail.

2. Write a message. To find the member of the US House of Representatives who represents you, go to the US House of Representatives website at www.house.gov, which will allow you to search using your home ZIP code, and will take you directly to a link to your Representative’s website and contact information. Congressional offices allow you to send an e-mail if you are from their district. You can find and contact your Senators (each US state has two) by going to www.senate.gov.

3. Make in-person visits to your Senators’ or Representative’s local or Washington offices to meet with them or with their staff, or to events that your Senators or Representative will be holding in your state or district in the next week or two. In-person visits can be particularly effective. Follow up your visit with a phone call or message.

This is a critically important moment, and your action now will help to make a difference. We appreciate your support of our field, and of the US federal government agencies that support our mission and the endeavors of the people and communities we serve.

In the coming weeks and months, AFS will be working with organizations representing other fields in the arts, humanities, and social sciences, and with the American Council of Learned Societies, American Association of Museums, American Library Association, Americans for the Arts, National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, National Humanities Alliance, and other organizations to organize and coordinate opposition to this budget blueprint. We will keep you informed about this process, and will ask for your participation at critical points as they arise. We encourage you to monitor this process yourself by following the websites of these organizations.


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American Folklore SocietySister Society: SIEF
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