Equity President Kate Shindle’s Statement on Proposal to Eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts

“The elimination of NEA seed money for theatre is a job killer. ”

Actors’ Equity Association President Kate Shindle issued the following statement today on President Trump’s proposal to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts. 

“The elimination of NEA seed money for theatre is a job killer. Not just for the actors and musicians onstage, or the writers and creative teams who create the material. Live theatre also provides jobs for people behind the scenes, like the stage managers and crew; and the people in front of the house, like ushers, box office and concession staff as well as those who have administrative jobs. Live theatre means work for those down the block: the wait staff in the restaurant, the bartenders, the taxi drivers and the parking lot attendants, to name only a few.

All of these are jobs that can’t be outsourced. These are jobs that are locally–based and, more often than not, are small businesses. NEA funds provide the leverage that attracts other grants and investments. NEA money boosts economic growth across the country. 

Anyone who witnessed last year’s NBA Finals or the GOP convention remembers a revitalized downtown Cleveland. That city’s road to recovery began with the theaters of a vibrant Playhouse Square neighborhood. As I travel the country with the national tour of “Fun Home,” I see evidence of this type of investment everywhere I look. Witness what DPAC has done for downtown Durham, North Carolina, or how Pittsburgh has transformed based on a concerted and strategic investment in the arts. Look at Greenville, South Carolina. Look at downtown Los Angeles in the years since the construction of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, or how Hollywood Theatre Row impacted a stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard long before it was designated as a cultural district. 

There is so much irrefutable evidence that the arts serve as an economic engine, even and especially in cities and towns whose factories or industry jobs have disappeared. All together, the arts are a $700 billion industry employing directly 4.7 million Americans and millions more indirectly. 

But the impact of the arts doesn’t end with jobs, or even with general support for the value of culture. Revitalizing these communities through the arts also leads to a significant increase in property values and thus property taxes, and shores up the ability of local governments to provide vital services for their residents. Put simply, the money provided to artists and institutions by the NEA is not about financing vanity projects. It’s about providing seed money that, for a relatively low price tag, encourages large-scale investment in community development through the arts. 

The members of Actors’ Equity urge our government leaders to continue funding the arts.”