Earlier this month, the Trump administration released a budget that calls for the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The NEA is a vital source of arts and cultural funds that reaches every congressional district in the United States and costs just $0.46 per taxpayer. In 2017 alone, the agency provided roughly $1.39 million to Tennessee organizations. What's more, for every $1 that the NEA invests in our communities, an additional $9 in state, local, and private funding follows.
Above: A "30 Days of Opera" performance by Opera Memphis at Carpenter Art Garden. Below: A woman experiencing homelessness makes a doll as part of Blues City Cultural Center's "Sew Much Love" program (photo: Nellgene Hardrick, courtesy of Last Dream Productions).
Here in Memphis, we experience the impact of NEA support through celebrated community programs such as Opera Memphis' "30 Days of Opera." This NEA-supported initiative takes place every September and it involves a mobile squad of opera singers who perform at more than 60 different locations throughout the city over the course of 30 consecutive days. They bring opera to street corners, coffee shops, dog parks, libraries, and everything in-between -- introducing thousands of people to this extraordinary art form for the very first time. In fact, the program has reach well over 100,000 Memphians since it was launched in 2012, and they've administered surveys showing that it promotes civic pride among audience members.
Another NEA grant recipient is The Blues City Cultural Center, which allocates the federal funds toward its "Sew Much Love" program, which serves homeless women. The women gather regularly at BCCC's Pinch District headquarters to make dolls, quilts, and wall hangings. They also enjoy a meal and learn about how to market their creations to become independent.
One formerly homeless participant in Sew Much Love told the Commercial Appeal that the program "reconnected me to the community" and "probably saved my life."
Visit ArtsMemphis' #SAVEtheNEA page to get the facts and find out what can YOU do to help protect this valuable source of funding for arts and culture.