February 3, 2017
Honorable Donald J. Trump
President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
In the February 6, 2017, Time Magazine, on page 29 in an article entitled, "Trump can thank the arts for his wealth", by Karen Finley, it states in part, "As part of upcoming budget cuts [President] Donald Trump plans to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities and privatize the Corporation for Public Broadcasting." Ms. Finley goes on to defend the funding for these entities and has made some valid observations but has missed the larger, more significant far reaching point that the elimination of these entities would have on our society as a whole.
I have been blessed to be in the museum profession for half a century, having helped establish several cultural institutions and was founder, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Museum Studies at Baylor University for 20 years. We had 150 graduates from our program during my tenure and had placed 90% of them in the profession before I retired in 2003. Therefore, my comments are from a different perspective than those of Ms. Finley's and bring a contrasting experience to the conversation.
Most importantly, it should be acknowledged that from the Egyptians, to the Greeks to the Native Americans their cultures are identified and remembered for their contributions to civilization by the artifacts, art and architecture that they created. The only way we have to procure, protect and promote our current National identity in perpetuity is by and through our museums. It should be noted that there are more visitors to museums annually (850 million) than to all sporting events combined (483 million) and received more than 500 million on-line visits a year when last verified several years ago.
As 501(c)3 educational public trusts museums receive only a small portion of their operating funding from governmental agencies (city, county or nationally) relying primarily on tax deductible contributions from citizens within the communities they serve. In turn, the museums continually invest more than $2 billion each year on educational programming and interpretive activities for K - 12 students. Museums also rank in the top 1% of the most trusted institutions in the world and they employ more than 400,000 Americans contributing over $21 billion to the economy annually. A similar amount is spent in businesses by visitors to the local cultural organizations with over 75% of travelers and tourists participating in their offerings.
Bottom line, for every $1.00 invested in museum oriented endeavors $7.00 is returned in tax revenues, therefore, museums are good for the economy and are not, and never have been, a drain on the Federal budget and what is allotted to the NEA and NEH are, and should be considered as incentive, start-up and infrastructure monies that create more jobs, producing more tax income and greater economic recovery the more that is invested in their operations, responsibilities and fulfillment of their missions.
Finally, in the commitment to preserve our various heritages for posterity, museums have been charged with conserving the over 2 billion objects held in U. S. collections and with over two thirds of our museums in economic stress and one state supported museum recently being closed temporary for lack of funds, there should be some consideration given to increasing grant monies through, for instance, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) for the necessary care and proper storage of this priceless patrimony.
Thank you for allowing me to voice another opinion on how devastating the eradication of these governmental agencies would be for the country, the economy and the future of the most dependable form of educational opportunities for children of all ages, as we all remain children in some aspects of the learning process.
Calvin B. Smith, President and CEO
Legacy Museum Consulting
1747 Newton Road, Pueblo, CO 81005
Phone: 719/485-1747 Cell: 719/252-6714