MASTERPIECE: Biden restores the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities dissolved by Trump
President Joe Biden issued an executive order on Friday reversing the former administration’s 2017 dissolution of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. The order came right in time for National Arts and Humanities Month which began on October 1st. With the action, President Biden has restored and renewed his commitment and support for the endowment of the arts.
“The arts, the humanities, and museum and library services are essential to the well-being, health, vitality, and democracy of our Nation. They are the soul of America, reflecting our multicultural and democratic experience. They further help us strive to be the more perfect Union to which generation after generation of Americans have aspired,” Biden’s executive order states.
Shortly after taking office in 2021, the newly inaugurated Biden pushed for the largest increase in the budget for the National Endowment of the Arts ever, proposing $201 million for the NEA, a stark contrast to his predecessor’s constant threat to eliminate government financing of the country’s federally funded cultural agencies – and now he’s one step closer to delivering on that promise.
“It is the policy of my Administration to advance the cultural vitality of the United States by promoting the arts, the humanities, and museum and library services.” – President Biden
In August 2017, the 16-member committee resigned en masse in protest of then-President Donald Trump’s lack of condemnation of the neo-Nazi “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA, sending a strongly worded letter addressed to Trump.
“Reproach and censure in the strongest possible terms are necessary following your support of the hate groups and terrorists who killed and injured fellow Americans in Charlottesville,” the letter said. “The false equivalencies you push cannot stand,” according to The New York Times.
On June 15, 1982, Republican President Ronald Reagan signed an executive order creating the Commission at the urging of the President’s Task Force on the Arts and Humanities. After a 1981 meeting to explore ways to increase private funding for the arts, The Task Force recommended the creation of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities to help coordinate the activities of the two Endowments (National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities), according to the Reagan Library.
“The Committee shall analyze, and make recommendations to the President and to the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities with respect to, (i) ways to promote private sector support for the arts and the humanities, especially at the State and local levels.” – Executive Order 12367
The White House official webpage explains Biden’s approach to the arts and humanities:
“Under my Administration, the arts, the humanities, and museum and library services will be integrated into strategies, policies, and programs that advance the economic development, well-being, and resilience of all communities, especially those that have historically been underserved. The arts, the humanities, and museum and library services will be promoted and expanded to strengthen public, physical, and mental health; wellness; and healing, including within military and veteran communities. We will enhance access to high-quality arts and humanities education and programming with the aim of enabling every child in America to obtain the broad creative skills and enrichment vital to succeed. goes beyond just the arts but recognizes the important role funding for the agencies plays in creating equity, and opportunity, and fostering diversity, acceptance, and inclusion.”
Americans for the Arts President and CEO Nolen V. Bivens applauded President Biden’s restoration of the PCAH.
“Americans for the Arts is excited and grateful that President Joseph Bisen has issued an Executive Order to reestablish the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities,” Bivens wrote. Adding, “We applaud the expansion of including museums and libraries.”
“Arts and culture and creative expression have the power to change and inspire minds and impact communities.” – Bivens
“I thank the President, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Members of Congress, and arts advocates across the country who championed the idea for the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities’ powerful reinstatement,” Bivens said.
The newly formed committee will be compromised of a diverse group of both federal and non-federal appointees from various backgrounds, including private, State, Local, and Tribal individuals.
“My Administration will strengthen our Nation’s democracy, increase civic engagement and public service, bolster social cohesion, and advance the cause of equity and accessibility by lifting up more — and more diverse — voices and experiences through Federal support for the arts, the humanities, and museum and library services,” the President wrote.
Welcome back, America, from the cultural wasteland of the Trump era.
Original reporting by Jennifer Schuessler at The New York Times.
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