NEH in the News
As the 2016 presidential campaign rolled to a close, prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan was disgusted by the diminished standards that had come to define the electoral process.
“I felt that regardless of who got elected, lines had been crossed, and those historical agreements, spoken and unspoken, about our two-party system, had been irretrievably damaged over the course of the election,” Schenkkan told Truthdig. “[There was] a coarsening of public discourse, the elimination of even a modicum of respect. And reasoned debate had been tossed in favor of a carnival-like click-bait.”
Schenkkan’s disgust inspired his new play, “Building the Wall,” which he wrote during seven feverish days in late October. The play currently is running at The Fountain Theatre in Hollywood and will roll out across the country in coming weeks.
Set in 2019, the play takes place entirely in a prison interview room where Gloria, a historian, interviews Rick, an inmate, about the circumstances leading to his arrest. (In the Los Angeles production, Gloria is played by Judith Moreland and Rick by Bo Foxworth.
Pattern may emerge in the number of submissions to the National New Play Network, which means there could be many such shows in the future. Or maybe not, if President Trump’s proposed elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities takes place.
President Donald Trump’s outline for next year’s federal budget includes a call to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).
As leaders of Milwaukee’s cultural organizations, we call on our state’s legislators and on Congress to preserve both of these important programs. The NEA and NEH provide essential support at modest cost and are a tiny part of the federal budget. The total NEA budget is $148 million — only 47 cents per American.
Yet the impact of these programs in Wisconsin is significant. Just since 2010, the NEH alone has awarded more than $5 million in grants in our state.
What have those grants done?
They have funded caring for our shared heritage at museums as varied as the Milwaukee Public Museum, Sheboygan County Historic Society and Milwaukee’s Jewish Museum. They’ve enabled digitizing historic Wisconsin newspapers for future researchers by the State Historic Society and supported re-housing archives at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee library. They have made arts and humanities courses possible for students at colleges and universities across Wisconsin — from UWM and Marquette University to Carroll, Beloit College, Ripon, St. Norbert’s, Lawrence and nearly every UW campus.
Imagine if some of the most important sounds and moving images recorded from the last ninety or so years suddenly disappeared: speeches, music, performances, documentaries, and news and entertainment programs of every kind.
That threat, unfortunately, is a real one.
I like to say that leadership is a choice. As our leaders in Washington confront tough decisions about our budget priorities, I urge them to continue federal funding for public broadcasting. Public broadcasting makes our nation smarter, stronger and, yes, safer. It’s a small public investment that pays huge dividends for Americans. And it shouldn’t be pitted against spending more on improving our military. That’s a false choice.
Caldwell University English Department faculty Dr. Katie Kornacki has been selected as an NEH Summer Scholar from a national applicant pool to attend one of 24 seminars and institutes supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The Endowment is a federal agency that, each summer, supports these enrichment opportunities at colleges, universities, and cultural institutions, so that faculty can work in collaboration and study with experts in humanities disciplines. Dr. Kornacki, a resident of Montclair, N.J., will participate in an institute entitled “Transcendentalism and Reform in the Age of Emerson, Thoreau, and Fuller.” The two-week program will be held in Concord, Massachusetts and will be directed by Dr. Sandy Petrulionis.
Among the many awards lining the bookshelf in the Humanities Nebraska (HN) conference room sits a clear glass plaque engraved with the declaration “Friend of Tourism.” The award, presented by former Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, illustrates the cultural organization’s statewide economic impact.
Despite the endorsement, the organization risks a 40 percent operating budget cut if Congress passes the Fiscal Year 2018 budget as proposed by President Trump. That means arts and humanities programs throughout Nebraska will have to downsize significantly, and HN’s Executive Director Chris Sommerich says some will even have to close their doors.
“What worries me is this infrastructure for the arts, humanities, education and culture disintegrating — across the country, and in Nebraska,” says Sommerich, from his office on the third floor of the Lincoln Community Foundation building in downtown Lincoln. “There’s nobody doing what we do.”
The dozens of cuts in “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again” — the White House proposal to slash social spending to move money to military spending — would profoundly affect rural areas and older Americans.
Programs set to be sacrificed include heating assistance for seniors, the Senior Community Service Employment Program, student aid for work/study, benefits to help wounded vets’ recovery, nutritional help for babies born to low-income moms, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services; Job Corps, Amtrak, Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program, the Congressionally chartered Legal Services Corp. providing free civil legal advice to the poor; Americorps, foreign aid, National Public Radio, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, and almost half of Health and Human Services cuts are in funds for National Institute of Health research.
Finally, what does the proposed budget and its priorities say? It shows us that funding for people matters less than sending money to defense contractors and those with vested interests in armed conflicts.
The DPE represents over 4 million professional and technical workers, including actors, choreographers, directors, musicians, performers, instrumentalists, writers, singers, stage managers, and other professionals in the arts, entertainment, and media industry.
“We urge Congress, at a minimum, to maintain current funding levels,” reads the letter, which also rallies against budget cuts to the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and privatization of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). “Ending federal support for the NEA, NEH, or CPB would be a radical, unprecedented action that would harm everyday people, particularly individuals who live far from metropolitan cultural centers.”
“Donald Trump wrote The Art of the Deal,—funding the NEA, National Endowment for the Humanities and Corporation for Public Broadcasting is a good deal for our economy. The President says he wants to create jobs—he can start by protecting our nation's investment in middle class arts jobs,” AEA’s executive director Mary McColl told Playbill.
Visiting Assistant Professor of History Joseph Hower has been awarded a Summer Stipend by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to fund work on his new book, A Revolution in Government: Jerry Wurf and the Rise of Public Sector Unions in Postwar America.
“I’m thrilled and honored to accept the award,” Hower said. “For over half a century, the NEH has played a crucial role in supporting and sustaining methodologically rigorous, publicly accessible scholarship on history and culture.”
Hower applauded Southwestern for its generosity in supporting travel for his research over the past two years, while acknowledging that such awards as the NEH research stipend play a crucial role in the support of scholarly writing. This is especially true during the summer, when research and writing goes unfunded at many colleges and universities.
“This is exciting news for the press and for the university,” said Laura Spitz, Cornell’s vice provost for international affairs. “Open access to humanities scholarship aligns with the mission of a global and engaged Cornell.”
Cornell is one of four presses to receive a second NEH/Mellon grant. The new grant will allow Cornell Open to expand its selection from 20 to 77 titles, providing a much wider range of subject areas. “We've been so pleased to have Cornell Open as a shining example of what the program might help support,” said Perry Collins, senior NEH program officer.
The initial grant brought back 20 classic out-of-print titles from the Cornell University Press archive; in seven months these open access titles have generated 25,000 downloads at 832 institutions in 152 countries.
“These 57 new open access titles celebrate the humanities and our strengths in anthropology, classics, political science, literary criticism and women’s studies,” said Dean Smith, director of Cornell University Press. “We will work with the library and faculty to ensure their use in courses. We remain committed to digitizing and republishing 150 classic out-of-print titles for our 150th anniversary in 2019 onto open access platforms.”