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Do we value the arts?— 3-20-15

Lincoln County is home to many talented, original artists. The region’s rich pottery tradition is evident on the streets of Lincolnton in the city’s iconic “face jugs.” In today’s edition, staff writer Michelle T. Bernard’s profile of potter Michel Bayne and her story on the Lincoln County Senior Games’ “Silver Arts” competition shine a light on artists in the community who are doing much to enrich life in Lincoln County. Bernard’s story in Friday’s edition about a Gallery 27 showing of art created by clients of Art on Main, a program for disabled people, showed how the creative community reaches out to people who are too often overlooked by society and gives them a chance to “harness self process and self growth,” according to Art on Main manager Jay Bolton.
This community is also lucky that its leaders see the importance of the arts and support the creative community through public funds. There’s a debate happening at the national level about public support for the arts and, while it seems unlikely that President Donald Trump will see his calls to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and public broadcasting come to fruition, these are still discussions we need to have as a nation. We need to decide what it is that we value, and if art fits into picture.
Conservative critics of the NEA have said that the programs it funds serve wealthy people, primarily. According to a column by George Will published by The Washington Post on March 15, “the NEA’s effects are regressive, funding programs that are, as [Speaker] Paul D. Ryan’s (R-Wis.) House Budget Committee said, ‘generally enjoyed by people of higher-income levels, making them a wealth transfer from poorer to wealthier.’” That alone isn’t a good enough argument for completely eradicating funding for the NEA, the National Endowment for the Humanities or the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, but it does point to the need for reform. The arts have traditionally been consumed by people of means, but that’s not necessarily how it should be. Increasing access to the arts in poor communities can help bridge that gap and if the NEA isn’t helping in that mission, changes should be made.
Populist calls to eliminate funding for the arts are nothing new. That this president would propose these cuts isn’t surprising, and many of his supporters likely agree with him. But we shouldn’t forget America’s rich artistic history and we shouldn’t ignore the value of the programs that are supported by the NEA.

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