Lincoln Center Just Made a Major Political Statement

The 11 facets of the Lincoln Center campus are an enormous cultural asset to New York City, and the world. Taken individually, New York City Ballet, School of American Ballet, The Juilliard School, The Chamber Music Society, Film Society, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Lincoln Center Theater, The Metropolitan Opera, New York Philharmonic, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts offer incredible programming and advancement for the arts, appreciated by approximately six million people annually. But it's unusual for all 11 organizations to work together for a specific cause, and today they did just that.

In an open letter, these leading arts organizations laid out their case for continued funding through the National Endowment for the Arts. The Trump administration has recently threatened to dismantle government funding for the arts, including the NEA. They point to the fact that art not only touches people's souls in an essential, yet unquantifiable way, but also offers concrete, measurable benefits—such as art therapy for veterans and new business investment in neighborhoods. The letter reiterates that the NEA costs each American tax payer less than one dollar per year, a statistic backed up by multiple sources.

Interestingly, Lincoln Center organizations receive far more funding from private donors than from public funding, yet the institution still feels that it's important to preserve the NEA. The letter states:

"Government helps in targeted ways at pivotal moments, for example, by providing early funding to get projects off the ground or helping to create or expand promising initiatives to achieve greater reach and impact. [...] But because it is so successful and its imprimatur so prestigious, every dollar the NEA contributes leads to nine additional dollars being donated from other sources." [Emphasis ours.]

It's heartening to see major institutions, which don't lack in donor support, point out that smaller groups live and die by small grants from the NEA. While Lincoln Center certainly won't fold due to government budget cuts, thousands of smaller organizations very well could—including regional dance companies, new choreography projects and funding for residencies. And the 11 organizations at Lincoln Center think American society will be worse off for such a loss.

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