Donald Trump has proposed eliminating both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, in a move that would see the worst fears of arts groups around the US come true.
In his first federal budget plan, President Trump also proposed scrapping the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which is a key revenue source for PBS and National Public Radio (NPR) stations.
The news was first reported by Cynthia Haven, a visiting scholar at Stanford University, and subsequently confirmed by the New York Times.
Eliminating the funding would see budgets removed from the NEA, the NEH, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and could also affect the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art.
It is apparently the first time a president has called for ending the endowments, which were created in 1965 after President Lyndon B Johnson signed legislation that declared any “advanced civilisation” must fully value the arts, the humanities, and cultural activity.
The cuts had been rumoured for some time, with reports that the White House budget had drafted a “hit list” of programmes that cost relatively little to run.
The Association of Art Museum Directors issued one of the first statements in response to the President’s plan and urged Congress to save the endowments.
“I’m sort of dumbstruck,” the association’s president Brian Ferriso said. “I’m hopeful that Congress will take the time to say, ‘Hey, wait a second. We need these cultural elements to our society.”
PEN, an organisation of writers and editors focusing on freedom of expression, has organized a petition calling for preservation of NEA, which has received more than 230,000 signatures.
Meanwhile endowment leaders have said they are “saddened” to learn that their own executive branch is seeking to shut them down.