We Need The Public Arts / by Jefferson Geiger

I can’t believe I need to make this argument in 2017, but here we are. We need the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Ronald Reagan attempted to kill the NEA in 1981, Newt Gingrich wanted to in the 90s, and now it looks like Trump’s team is planning to do the same along with the National Endowment for the Humanities and privatizing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The reason why is the reason for most decisions: money. However, it’s a really terrible reason. All three programs combined amount to only .02 percent of the entire federal budget. The NEA’s budget alone is only $148 million. Trump’s inauguration last week, the most expensive in history, cost an estimated $200 million.

That $148 million help out arts programs across the country with grants of all sizes. The NEA helps bolster creativity everywhere, from community theater, to academia and to independent artists.

According to Brian Stokes Mitchell, board member for Americans for the Arts, the arts is a $704 billion industry that employs 4.7 million workers and adds 4.2 percent to the annual GDP.

Loosing cultural cornerstones is not worth a .02 percent savings.

For those that don’t know, the CPB partially funds National Public Radio and Public Broadcasting Service. NPR is responsible for the news shows “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered” along with other programs like “Fresh Air,” “Car Talk,” and “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!”

Then there are the shows distributed via public radio but not produced by NPR, such as “This American Life” and “A Prairie Home Companion.” 

Yet they’re also responsible for local outlets. Imagine not being able to listen to KRZA or Colorado Public Radio. That means no more connecting cultures across the upper Rio Grande or listening to Front Range indie bands on “OpenAir.”

PBS operates on national and local levels as well. It provides viewers with educational shows like “Nova,” and “American Masters,” along with music programs like “Austin City Limits.” The news programs “Frontline and “PBS NewsHour” have won multiple awards. Anglophiles can watch “Downton Abbey” and “Sherlock” because of  “Masterpiece” importing the shows.

Rocky Mountain PBS lets us stay in touch with our great state through “Arts District” and “Colorado State of Mind.” As someone who competed on “Matchwits” in high school, I’d hate for others to be denied that same opportunity as a contestant. 

“Sesame Street,” a show that I’m pretty sure almost all of us grew up watching, is already on the premium cable network HBO because of lack of funds. The episodes currently air on PBS after a nine-month delay, however, who is to say if it’ll remain that way?

There’s no extra fee to watch PBS like there is HBO or Showtime. One doesn’t even need cable to tune in. Thanks to San Luis Valley Television, anyone in the Valley can watch both Albuquerque’s PBS station and Pueblo’s PBS station for nothing more than the cost of an antenna.

Watching the documentary “Hamilton’s America” or other Broadway acts because of “Great Performances” is invaluable. The expenses of Broadway make it inaccessible to many, but with television people can watch what they may never see in person.

These organizations are worth more than their budget and the pros obviously outweigh the cons. If Trump really cared about fake news, he shouldn’t eliminate the most objective and least biased outlets in America. Free access to culture, information and education is vital to growing as a human being.

I know this column isn’t as long or as flowery as others I’ve written. I’m at a loss for words. Like I said in the beginning, I feel like I shouldn’t even have to write this. Culture makes us who we are. Very few other species make art. We need to cherish and nurture it.

This column was originally published in the January 25, 2017 edition of the Valley Courier.