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Congresswoman Alma Adams

Representing the 12th District of North Carolina


Why we need to continue funding the arts

May 24, 2017

As a professional artist, curator and college art professor, I’ve witnessed firsthand the importance of the arts and the humanities. They play a vital role in modeling our perspectives and enriching our lives. The arts and humanities are not just a tool for personal expression or a way to mark celebrations, but they challenge our perceptions of society. The arts and humanities inspire, challenge, and expand our minds. They encourage us to think critically and allow us to experience the world through someone else’s reality. The arts are a universal language that help us understand diversity, cultures and our most complex issues. Arts are what make us human.

Time and time again, as a nation, we have made a conscious decision to fund the arts and humanities, signaling that we intrinsically value them as being crucial to our collective identity. Now as we continue to become more diverse, it is vital that Congress protects funding for the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH).

The NEA and NEH are crucial to our nation’s artistic culture. NEA and NEH grants make it possible for the arts and humanities to reach every part of our country. Through these grants, not only is new art produced, but also our history is preserved and shared. In my district alone, NEA and NEH investments have contributed to the culture and rapid growth of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, which is why I am fighting to protect their funding.

The arts and humanities positively impact students’ development. Because of this understanding, the arts and music were included in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) as a part of a well-rounded education. The NEA is a critical component to ensuring strong arts education in our schools. Through direct grants, the NEA supports crucial pre-K through 12th grade art education projects, which is why I continue to encourage my colleagues to defend the NEA and NEH’s vital funding.

By establishing partnerships with our colleges and universities, the NEA and NEH engages with our institutions of higher learning to provide necessary grants for projects such as preserving historic works of art or literature. As an art professor, I had the privilege of working with the NEA to secure a matching grant which allowed the college to preserve and restore a historic painting by Aaron Douglas, the father of the Harlem Renaissance.

Through a NEH Common Heritage grant, Davidson College was able to fund a project titled “Shared Stories, Shared History: Black Lives in Northern Mecklenburg”. This project aimed to archive historical materials and tell the untold stories and contributions of African-Americans in the Town of Davidson, North Carolina.

The arts are not only vital for our education, but also for helping our veterans transition to civilian life and combat physical and mental illnesses. Through the NEA Military Healing Arts Partnership, the NEA worked with the Department of Defense to create an art therapy program to treat service-members with traumatic brain injuries and associated psychological health issues at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. This program places art therapy at the center of a multidisciplinary treatment approach. Through art therapy, our brave service-members receive specialized treatments to heal both their physical and mental wounds. These programs, funded by the NEA, are fundamental to many of our service-members’ well-being and must continue to be supported by Congress.

From education, to health, to quality of life, the arts and the humanities are crucial to our success, health and happiness. Each generation has its own unique set of challenges, but it is through the arts and humanities that we learn compassion, understanding and critical thinking skills that enable us to address these problems and find solutions. As we prepare the next generation to compete and lead in a global society, it is imperative that we continue to fund the arts and humanities. Some say that arts funding is governmental waste — I fundamentally disagree. Arts funding is one of the most important functions and duties of our government. It is through the arts where we grow, where we reach understanding, and where we find common ground in a rapidly changing complex world.