The first one hundred days of the Trump presidency have given us a taste of the style of governance we are to expect for the next four years. For many, this has been a cause of consternation as travel is restricted and our alliances wither. Next on the President’s firing line are the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, which are to be eliminated in Trump’s budget proposal. Now more than ever, the arts community has to show its fangs and demonstrate that it has the capacity to make lasting change, even if it must fight tooth and nail under adverse circumstances.
Hamilton’s latest mainstage production is an example of how theatre can both entertain audiences and subvert our commander-in-chief to great effect. Antigonick features a 2,000 year-old story, re-energized by Anne Carson’s translation and re-invented by Mark Cryer’s needlepoint direction. Yet the core message remains the same: a warning about the perils of demagoguery and the rulers who use it to circumvent justice. In a similar vein, Get Out has pushed the glaringly problematic nature of modern racism to the forefront of American cinema.
Arts and humanities programs educate, enrich and shape our lives and communities. But these programs seem to have no place in Donald Trump’s America. His draft fiscal year 2018 budget calls to eliminate funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), which would go into effect this October.
NEH grants led to the creation of books, films, museum exhibits, and other exciting discoveries, over the past 50 years. Humanities programs play a key role in supporting and engaging urban, at-risk youth across the country. PRIME TIME, created by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, is one such program. It was designed to build literacy skills and encourage family bonding through storytelling, using “award-winning children’s books that include culturally diverse stories.” A commissioned impact study revealed students who participated in PRIME TIME from grades 1-4 scored higher on Louisiana state exams. Parents also reported that PRIME TIME gave them the opportunity to bond with their child, made them more comfortable going to the library, and caused their child to want to read more books.
The NEH also invests in significant social, cultural and public health research ventures that could disappear if Congress approves Trump’s budget plans. The agency backed grants to Indiana University for projects as diverse as tracking the spread of HIV/AIDS throughout society to the preservation of heritage materials from Native Americans, and indigenous groups across the world.
The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (VFH) Board of Directors is pleased to announce the appointment of Matthew S. Gibson as executive director. With deep knowledge of and passion for the public humanities, experience leading diverse and innovative programs, and extensive relationships with humanities scholars and partners across Virginia and the nation, Gibson will lead VFH after having served as the organization’s director of digital initiatives and creator and editor of its Encyclopedia Virginia for eleven years.
A nationally recognized expert in digital humanities, Gibson succeeds VFH’s founding president, Robert C. Vaughan III, who will retire in June after forty-three years of exceptional leadership. Gibson was selected through a national search yielding more than 70 applications, led by the University of Virginia’s executive vice president and provost Thomas C. Katsouleas.
“Matthew will build on the spirit of innovation, inclusion, and excellence that Rob has inspired here at VFH,” says VFH Board chairwoman Barbara J. Fried. “The humanities help us understand each other and what it means to be human in a changing and complex world. This work has never been more important than it is today, and Matthew is the perfect steward of our mission to connect people and ideas, sharing Virginia’s diverse stories so we can create a better future together.”
In 1948, when George Orwell was writing a novel, he transposed two numbers to come up with the title “1984,” and he chose April 4 as the date protagonist Winston Smith began writing a diary, which in that faraway time was against the rules.
On April 4, 1968, a life-ending bullet struck the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther Jr., the leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and other events of the civil rights movement.
On april 4, a few blocks away at the Capri Theatre in Old Cloverdale, a crowd almost filled the theater to see a cinematic version of “1984,” which was filmed in the title year.
Capri Director Martin McCaffery and members of several arts organizations spoke briefly before the movie. They were united in opposition to President Donald Trump’s proposed elimination of funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. He also wants to drop the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Minority Business Development Agency.
The Capri was among theaters in 180 cities to show the movie on April 4 as part of a protest against removal of funding.
Philosopher and University professor Martha Nussbaum has been selected for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)'s 2017 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities on May 1 in Washington D.C.
Nussbaum’s lecture will be entitled “Powerlessness and the Politics of Blame.” It will focus on emotion in politics and the way “uncertainty leads to the blaming of outsider groups.”
“It is urgent for us to understand ourselves better, to see why we have arrived at this state of division, hostility, and non-communication. A philosophical approach, focused on a close look at human emotions, offers that understanding of ourselves...I believe it also offers us strategies of hope and connection,” Nussbaum said in the NEH’s press release.