David Kelly as Buzz Windrip in the world premiere of "It Can’t Happen Here" at Berkeley Rep.

President Trump’s proposed $148 million budget cut to the National Endowment for the Arts has been sending nervous ripples through the arts community. We talk with local museums, theaters and other arts groups about how the Bay Area would be impacted by cuts to NEA funding.

How Cuts to the National Endowment for the Arts Could Affect the Bay Area Arts 6 April,2017Michael Krasny

Neal Benezra, director, SFMOMA
Dana Zell , managing director, Children's Musical Theater, San Jose
Brad Erickson, executive director, Theatre Bay Area


    During all human history art played big role in advancing human civilization as it was extremely evident during the Ancient Egyptian civilization, beside their great achievement in science, and architecture, their art played big role in advancing and maintain that great civilization for near 5000 years, as it plays essential role in maintaining the continuation of the society through generation, as well without art, we would not have been to inherit their great advances that play great role in today science and technology….Similar arguments good be made about ancient Greece.

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    If an arts/music organizations gets funding from the NEA and like Hamilton they make millions and millions of dollars shouldn’t they be required to pay the NEA back? And if a local arts/music cause is that important to the local public then why shouldn’t the public NOT the taxpayer fund the cause? The wealthy can afford to fund the opera, symphony. And big cities like San Francisco, NYC, Los Angeles should fund their own arts/music cause and not expect the majority of the taxpayers who will never attend ANY of these events to do so.

  • William – SF

    My taxes have been used for excess military spending. Cut military funding first!
    More funding for arts, education, social programs, health care, social security, social programs, ….

  • marte48

    I would much rather support the arts than the military. Trump is proposing cutting from the arts and social programs to give more to the military.

    • Kevin Skipper

      Can’t drum up military support without development grants for ‘indie’ documentaries about the Syrian Immigrant Crisis, it’s Central Asian victims and its de facto NATO heroes.

      Hand in hand, it puts the lotion in the basket.

    • Beth Grant DeRoos

      The Constitution requires that the government protect us from enemies foreign and domestic and the military plays a huge role in doing this. Yes, we need the arts, but we do not need tens of thousands of government funded arts programs.

  • Kevin Skipper

    To the caller questioning the market viability of the NEA: Don’t forget the NEA’s role in propagating important cultural, opinion building, historical narrative synthesis and other vital propaganda for which the supposed ‘free-market’ must be sufficiently primed and conditioned.
    Turns out that some things, like mainstream consent, are more important than money. Public radio, professional sports teams and subsidized charter schools make the same argument.

    • William – SF

      As does the NRA.

      • Kevin Skipper

        Crisis actors and mythological terrorists are excellent product placement opportunities for the personal protection, self defense, and firearms industries. They serve both civilian and law enforcement markets.

        • William – SF

          And why are the ‘bad guys’ never well lit and wearing pastels? (ugh, slippery slope)

          • Kevin Skipper

            Why can’t families of the victims ever get a good cry going? It’s like a bad episode of ‘Arrested Development.’ Remember the one where Lucille and Lindsay were trying to squeeze out tears while commiserating at the tennis club?

          • William – SF

            I haven’t seen the episode, but I could imagine…

          • Kevin Skipper

            SMH. I don’t know. There’s some comedic writing on that show that just really blows my mind. Especially when Ron Howard joins the cast for the reunion episode. The whole last season is a non-stop screamer. The holy grail of the comedic story arc.

          • William – SF

            Not owning a TV is indicative of my interest in sitting in front of one …but visiting my family for a few hours manages to keep me up-to-date on …

          • Kevin Skipper

            It’s all on Netflix. The app fits on a tablet or a better phone. I watch only what I like. Interesting way to stay ahead of stale socio-political narrative.

    • Kevin Skipper

      …Me and my conspiracy theories. If we can’t trust the NEA, and Sesame Street, who can we trust?

      I’m not being completely fair. The NEA seems to do a great job of promoting projects and campaigns of all kinds that already demonstrate a certain level of promise and feasibility.

      I agree with the comments that say the NEA helps to correct certain market inequities in access and acquisition of production and patronage funding. While consumer behavior is dependent upon market conditions, most Americans and certainly Bay Area residents agree that we should make as much art available to as many people as possible and that its worth public support.

  • Katherine Cramer

    Although the quote, “Then what are we fighting for?” about cutting funding for the Arts for war effort, has been incorrectly attributed to Winston Churchill during WWII. I’d love to see another affirmation from a respected leader. Sadly, an Arts support meme seems to not be on the horizon.

  • Ben Rawner

    Who needs art when we have tv and internet cat videos. Wealthy people have spent much of their time and money on patroning the arts and at the same time pushed for paying less and less taxes. These kinds of contrary ideas are coming to a head. It’s great to allow access to the arts but how about access to quality life shelter food and education.

    • Kevin Skipper

      O’, the contradictions!

  • Kevin Skipper

    Trumps administration doesn’t support the arts!?!?! Whoa.

    The television news theater communities of Malta and Syria would beg to differ, as would their burgeoning stables of crisis actors and prop artists.

  • Commnt8r

    The best case I’ve seen, and kind of a surprising one, comes from the longtime mayor of Charleston, SC, regarding the reason he favored starting the Spoleto arts festival years ago, which is now a major destination event: “It forced the city to accept the responsibility of putting on something world-class,” he said.

    Yes, he wanted the tourists who would flow into the city and the money they’d spend. Sure, he wanted the luster.But
    he was also staging a kind of experiment in civic psychology and doing
    something that he considered crucial in government. He was raising the
    bar, and Spoleto was the instrument.”

  • Marko

    Responding to some other callers, I want to point out that the government is giving money to local arts organizations that then decide what to fund. My area of work is in classical music, and for it to be “financially viable,” our ticket prices would have to be 4x what they currently are, which would make it less accessible. And for smaller organizations, we don’t have the money to staff an entire development department to have a large donor base. Grants from the NEA and other such organizations are absolutely essential for the arts to exist.

  • Robert Thomas

    “What kind of paintings does the President favor?”

    Ha! Paintings of himself, obviously – as for example the portrait that graces the Mar-a-Lago cocktail bar.

    Maybe THAT’S the exploitable angle. Can’t we just re-define the expenditures of the NEA as “storage costs” and make them refundable tax credits?

    • William – SF

      I’ll put up the $13 to cover the portrait’s insurance.

  • Darthmaul

    Here is an idea! Conservatives always want to cut out things that normal AKA liberal people enjoy and like. For instance this forum. Let the congress stop funding arts and NPR. Then make it a requirement, that any politician that goes on News Hour to crow about their latest pet peeve or position, affirm or deny that they voted to cut public funding for the arts or NPR. Let these politicians go onto Fox News where they can preach to the choir and we can ignore them and go about making the country better. Good riddance!

    • Kevin Skipper

      Darth, I don’t know if a ‘summarily cut the fat then shame conservatives and libertarians into explaining themselves on corporate networks’ strategy is the most promising, in this case. Neither is conflating normal’ with ‘liberal.’

      • William – SF

        Or in other words … there’s a foot that wants to know why you shot it!

        • Kevin Skipper

          Speaking on behalf of that foot, we have the cryogenically preserved head of Clint Eastwood joining us, by satellite.

          • William – SF

            …sans bar stools, I hope.

  • Raymond Larios

    Why should we subsidize the hobbies of the rich? Please go see what a ticket to the opera or the ballet costs and ask yourself how many people have access to these prices. Also ask yourself who are the kids who can realistically participate in these programs.

    • lee horowitz

      thats why we have community theatre. great shows at neighborhood prices. also many of these shows have free shows for schools. Haven’t you also heard of starving artists. its not always for the rich.

    • disqus_JYWMVFN7QD

      The arts are not just for the rich. Here’s few Bay Area arts organizations that offer affordable tickets for students/schools: Berkeley Rep ($10 ea), CalShakes (half price ea), SF Ballet ($10 ea), A.C.T. ($10-20 ea), and African-American Shakespeare Company (free-$10 ea). Schools in San Francisco, Oakland, Richmond, Berkeley and surrounding cities are able to bring their students to see shows from these organizations because of funding from the NEA which helps make these heavily discounted/free tickets possible. Without the NEA, many kids wouldn’t have a chance to experience the arts performed by professional companies (ie. kids from low income households and communities).

    • Jennifer Walsh

      I run a nonprofit arts organization in San Francisco. We receive a very small amount of funding from the NEA, and we receive funding from other organizations that receive NEA funds that then go on to fund small organizations like ours. With out this funding we could not offer our subsidized programs for low-income youth. And, we could not operate our in-school arts education programs that we offer to cost at a very low cost. We use the arts to create life changing experiences for those who may not have other opportunities to engage in art and culture. We have been in operation for 25 years. Each year because of the support of organizations including the NEA, we offer 160 low-income youth classes 4 times a week, year round, and work with another 10,000 through school-based programs. No funding means only the schools and families that can afford market rate get to participate.

  • lee horowitz

    My children have been in shows at CMT. they have learned so much from their experiences. Please continue to support the arts.

  • 1PeterDuMont2STARALLIANCE8

    One of the most delightful and impactful influences of the arts community I have noticed in recent years is the creative (and often informative) artistic and historical decoration of otherwise dull and boring, but functionally important, mini-structures in downtown areas: utility boxes, trash containers, benches, odd blank spaces and of course walls.

    From one citizen on behalf of many, a hearty THANK YOU for this uplifting creative work that relieves the severity of the core urban environment!

  • Kevin Skipper

    Don’t worry about cutting public support for arts programs. We all see how well that went in keeping urban public schools open. After all, that subversive social commentary was just taking up space and scaring good residents away to the suburbs, right.

    Would we even miss public art? Schools can center their curriculum around “Hairspray” “Hamiliton,’ ‘Soapdish,’ and ‘Jesus Christ: Superstar.’

  • keloomis

    I love theater, and go fairly often. But listening to this panel, I kept thinking that the Bay Area is already very rich in arts, and maybe, on a national basis, we could turn over “our share” to the Midwest, and help rescue their economies? I just read this article, http://cookpolitical.com/story/10299, and think there’s a serious message in here for coastal cultural workers and liberals.

    • Beth Grant DeRoos

      The issue I have with federal government funding programs is the mindset that develops where people get this ‘entitlement’ thinking. In our small rural area our arts programs, are locally funded. Not only are tickets to events on a sliding scale but the programs I attend encourage folks to buy a ‘senior’ ‘disabled’ ‘college student’ ticket to donate.

      And the San Francisco Chronicle in the past, has done pieces where they note that more people attend the symphony and opera than sporting events and most patrons are upper middle class and wealthy. If that is the case then they should be able to support themselves.

      Then there is PBS and shows like Sesame Street who makes millions and millions a year selling their Sesame Street Workshop products from toys to clothing. Around $45 million in merchandising in 2010. Yet they still get government funding. Why?

      Just because I want an arts, music program doesn’t mean I should expect someone else to pay for it.


Michael Krasny

Michael Krasny, PhD, has been in broadcast journalism since 1983. He was with ABC in both radio and television and migrated to public broadcasting in 1993. He has been Professor of English at San Francisco State University and also taught at Stanford, the University of San Francisco and the University of California, as well as in the Fulbright International Institutes. A veteran interviewer for the nationally broadcast City Arts and Lectures, he is the author of a number of books, including “Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life” (Stanford University Press) “Spiritual Envy” (New World); “Sound Ideas” (with M.E. Sokolik/ McGraw-Hill); “Let There Be Laughter” (Harper-Collins) as well as the twenty-four lecture series in DVD, audio and book, “Short Story Masterpieces” (The Teaching Company). He has interviewed many of the world’s leading political, cultural, literary, science and technology figures, as well as major figures from the world of entertainment. He is the recipient of many awards and honors including the S.Y. Agnon Medal for Intellectual Achievement; The Eugene Block Award for Human Rights Journalism; the James Madison Freedom of Information Award; the Excellence in Journalism Award from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association; Career Achievement Award from the Society of Professional Journalists and an award from the Radio and Television News Directors Association. He holds a B.A. (cum laude) and M.A. from Ohio University and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin.

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