Two stories in the news last week concerning the Trump presidency flew in the face of each other, although taken one at a time, they appear to have little connection. Story one: the inaugural luncheon took place in a chamber off the Capitol Rotunda known as the National Statuary Hall. Story two: The president plans to kill off the National Endowment for the Arts. To grasp how sneering the elimination of the NEA would be, consider the location of the luncheon, the site of the very first celebration after Trump took his oath of office -- a room devoted entirely to #Art -- National Statuary Hall.
Aside from the three dozen larger-than-life sculptures of historic figures, stand colossal white marble columns of the Corinthian order, the most highly-wrought of all Old Rome’s orders, each hand-carved by artisans from Carrera in Italy. Also, on the way to the luncheon, Trump and his guests had to pass through the Capitol Rotunda, where giant paintings picturing American history grace the walls. Hasn’t anyone in the Trump administration noticed the dedication to art that our seat of government shows itself to be?
A decision driven by faulty data
Granted, Trump wants to save taxpayer dollars -- $10 trillion according to The Hill Report – a neat trick given his plans to cut taxes and increase spending on building the military and a 2,000-mile border wall. But the percentage of the federal budget that goes to the NEA each year comes to a mere 0.003 percent. So the question goes pleading, why eliminate the NEA in the name of cutting the deficit if the cut doesn’t make a nick, let alone a dent? Maybe the better question is to ask if Trump knows what the NEA does.
Looking at what he has said in the past about it, he doesn’t know very much.
Consider his take on Brooklyn Museum’s controversial show in 1999 of Chris Ofili’s painting “The Holy Virgin Mary” decorated with elephant waste. Trump attacked the NEA for the exhibit, even though the Endowment had nothing to do with it. The Daily News quoted him at the time, saying, “As President, I would ensure that the National Endowment of the Arts stops funding of this sort.” Sounds like one of those “alternative facts” that his spokesperson Kellyanne Conway talks about.
Looking for a legacy in all the wrong places
It looks like one of the ways Trump will make America great again will be to stop support of the arts. Yet even a casual glance at history would tell him that when it comes to greatness, it’s not the amount of money a government saves, but rather the art that it supports. The Medici family, rulers of Italy for three centuries, made their fortune in banking; but they made the history books by patronizing the arts, beginning with financial aid to Michelangelo. Chasing immortality with poll numbers and crowd size is missing out on the renown for which Trump longs. #Donald Trump