A New York Art Scene Anxiously Waits for Decision on N.E.A.’s Fate
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New York City sees itself as the cultural capital of the nation — if not the world — but its artistic community is suddenly vulnerable to budget cuts in Washington, where the administration of President Trump is considering eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts, which provides millions of dollars each year to groups in the city.
The endowment gave $14.5 million to 419 organizations in New York City in the fiscal year 2016, according to a study by the city comptroller’s office. That was more than 10 percent of all N.E.A. grants that year, making New York City groups the top recipients of such grants in the country.
“The only real consistent funding that sustains our company is the government-funding sources,” said Emily Joy Weiner, artistic director of Houses on the Moon Theater Company, which is based in Manhattan.
The group received a $10,000 grant from the N.E.A. for the play “The Assignment,” which focuses on gun violence and will debut next month. The grant was about 8 percent of the cost of putting on the production, she said.
The group also received funding from the New York State Council on the Arts, which in turn gets a large annual grant from the federal endowment. “Without those sources our company would never have been able to continue to grow and sustain itself,” Ms. Weiner said.
The New York Times reported last month that the federal government’s budget office had created a hit list of programs that could be eliminated to trim spending, including the arts endowment, which was established in 1965. Some of the first recipients of endowment grants were New York City-based dance groups, including the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Martha Graham Dance Company and the American Ballet Theater, according to Robert L. Lynch, the president of Americans for the Arts, an advocacy group that is pushing to preserve the endowment.
The N.E.A. is among several federal programs, including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and AmeriCorps, that have long been targets of conservatives in Congress for trimming domestic spending.
Supporters of the endowment point out that its total annual budget of about $148 million is a tiny fraction of a federal budget of about $4 trillion a year, and that eliminating it would have no real impact on balancing the budget. At the same time, cutting grants would have a larger effect on the hundreds of groups that receive funding.
“New York is the cultural capital of the world and the notion that we’re going to zero out the National Endowment for the Arts is patently outrageous,” said Scott M. Stringer, the New York City comptroller, in an interview.
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