President Donald Trump became the first president to propose an end to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) when he recently released his first federal budget plan.

And it sent a sense of concern rippling through Charlotte’s arts scene.

“The proposed elimination of funding to the NEA by President Trump’s administration diminishes residents’ access to high-quality arts experiences and threatens the national economy,” Arts & Science Council president Robert Bush said in a statement.

Bush cited 2013 statistics showing that the arts funneled $704 billion into the economy.

The NEA and NEH were created in 1965 under President Lyndon B. Johnson. Quite a few well-known arts organizations in Charlotte have received NEA support, including The Mint Museum, McColl Center, Drums 4 Life (which provides musical opportunities for incarcerated youth) and UNC-Charlotte (for a project that recreated Paul Taylor’s dance piece, “Tracer”).

Charlotte Ballet is bringing a world premiere ballet of “Wuthering Heights” by Charlotte Ballet’s Associate Artistic Director and Resident Choreographer Sasha Janes to town this April, thanks to $10,000 from the NEA.

According to Charlotte Ballet Executive Director Douglas Singleton, the dance company applies for and typically receives NEA support annually.

“When an organization receives a grant from the NEA, the financial support is important, but the recognition by peers and the acknowledgement of an organizations’ artistic excellence is extremely valuable,” Singleton said.

He clarified that cutting NEA funding would financially impact smaller companies and rural areas more than it would the Charlotte Ballet.

Meanwhile, Children’s Theatre of Charlotte (CTC), in collaboration with The Experiential Theater Company (ETC), was able to bring the world premiere of its “Journey to Oz” to Charlotte because of a $10,000 grant from the NEA last season.

“’Journey to Oz’ was one of four productions during Children’s Theatre of Charlotte’s 2015-2016 season to pilot the Theatre 360 program, which provides free theatre experiences for children and their families,” said Linda Reynolds, CTC Director of Advancement and Interim Managing Director.

About 11,000 children and their families got to see the show.

“The ripple effect of this project is far-reaching because it has gone on for further development with ETC and can now be shared in communities who didn’t before have cultural resources for young people and families,” Reynolds said.

Bush pointed out other positive effects of the NEA that can be seen in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, like free museum admission for military families and engagement between Charlotte Symphony musicians and music students at Northwest School of the Arts.

“ASC, the cultural community and its supporters are reaching out to their representatives in Congress now and advocate to keep funding the NEA,” Bush said. “It is my hope that fellow residents will do the same.”

Photo: Peter Zay/Charlotte Observer file

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