NEA

Trump Sketch Sells at Auction for $16,000

Trump's 1995 drawing of the Empire State Building via NYTimes

Trump's 1995 drawing of the Empire State Building via NYTimes

A drawing by Donald Trump of the Empire State Building sold at auction in Los Angeles for a hammer price of USD $16,000. Trump drew the 9" x 12" sketch in 1995 for a charity auction at his Mar-a-Lago estate. It initially sold for USD $100.

At the time that he produced the drawing, Trump was attempting to purchase the Empire State Building. The effort failed and he was ultimately forced to sell his stake in the landmark property.

In 2016, the median size of grants given by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) was less than USD $20,000. As president, Trump has proposed to eliminate the NEA entirely. The NEA is working out of a temporary office space at present, having been displaced from the building which was transformed into the Trump International Hotel - Washington.

NEA, NEH and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Slated for Elimination

nytimes-nea

President Trump just released his FY18 budget proposal and, as had been rumored, the package would completely eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The NEA, in particular, has been a bete noire for many conservatives since the 1980s when a series of controversial exhibitions, particularly those featuring work by Robert Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano, angered Republican members of Congress.

Although the exhibitions reviled by conservatives constituted a vanishingly small portion of the NEA budget, the agency has struggled to stave off their anger. The elimination of the NEA likely has more to do with symbolism than fiscal prudence, as the total funding of both agencies amounts to a rounding error in the federal budget. As far as symbolism is concerned, it is worth noting that the NEA had already been physically displaced from its former home in the building which has now become a Trump hotel. Moreover, the cost of redecorating the hotel significantly exceeded the entire annual NEA budget.

Unfortunately, the largest impact of destroying the NEA will likely be felt in areas outside the nation's metropolitan centers, whose public museums and private galleries will survive. In recent years, the NEA has increasingly focussed on supporting community projects in parts of the country that have few cultural resources, providing funding for projects radio stations in rural areas, community-based theater companies and programs for returning veterans.

As President Trump relies heavily on family and personal relationships in his decision-making, some had hoped that advocates for the arts with access to the President might have provided some protections for the endowments. Karen Pence, the wife of the Vice President, is an advocate for art therapy and a longtime painter. Ivanka Trump is a serious collector of contemporary art whose collection includes works by Richard Prince, Christopher Wool, David Ostrowski and many others. During the presidential transition, Mr. Trump himself seemed to evince some interest in the NEA when he reportedly offered his friend Sylvester Stallone a chance to run the endowment. Stallone, a long-time painter whose work has been widely exhibited, was reportedly flattered but declined the offer.

As the budget proposal moves through Congress, there is still a chance that funding for the endowments could be restored. Many arts organizations are already mobilizing support. However, the endowments themselves, legally barred from lobbying, cannot advocate for their own survival.

No More Federal Funding for the Arts?

Trump poster in Iowa

Leaked details regarding the Trump Administration's planned budget proposal suggest that the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting are all on the chopping block. The NEH and NEA reportedly will be terminated and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting sold off.

In terms of the federal budget, it has been well documented that the support for the arts makes up a vanishingly small portion of the federal budget (less than .001% annually).

De-funding the NEA and NEH have long been a goal of some conservative members of Congress, who consistently point to a handful of controversial exhibitions that received some NEA funding. However, the NEA provides thousands of grants to recipients across the nation, including to many areas where citizens have little local access to cultural resources.

As Graham Bowley of the NYT notes, the NEA and NEH had already taken significant hits even before Trump's election, having been evicted from their offices to make way for the Trump Hotel in Washington, DC. In an apt sign of the times, renovation of the Trump Hotel cost over USD $200 million, which exceeds the entire budgets of the NEA and NEH combined.