IBMA pens open letter to US Government

The International Bluegrass Music Association, through its Executive Director Paul Schiminger, has published an open letter to President Trump and the US Congress concerning plans to reduce or eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Schiminger says that he is speaking for the IBMA membership, though is not clear that members were actually polled on their feelings about this funding matter.

Here is the letter as it was released this morning.

An Open Letter to President Trump and Our Legislators:
On behalf of the International Bluegrass Music Association (“IBMA”) members, the entire bluegrass music community, and countless other professionals and fans of American roots music, I am writing in response to the President’s 2018 Federal Budget proposal. The United States of America cannot afford to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts (“NEA”) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (“NEH”). These two government agencies carry out three highly beneficial missions across our country: preserving and promoting the arts, educating and inspiring children, and expanding commerce through the grants provided by these public endowments.
An important principle of our nation has been to protect and promote our rich artistic and cultural heritage. Bluegrass music, as a core genre of American roots music, was created on American soil as an extension of our country’s working class communities. It is this cultural history, along with exceptional musicianship, that makes this music loved throughout our country today.This is not simply entertainment; it is a vital part of our nation’s identity.  Our plea to maintain funding for these public endowments is not based in any political agenda.  It is about the music and the professionals and audiences who span the entire political spectrum.A second guiding principle is to provide educational opportunity to the children of our country living in poverty. It has been shown that participation in the arts improves overall student learning and grades while fostering their creative skills. NEA grants reach nearly 16,000 communities nationwide, with 40% of funds going to high-poverty neighborhoods. Elimination of these endowments even further disadvantages these at-risk children.  
The final important principle is an economic one. The current budget proposal would cut $148 million in funding to the NEA and the same for the NEH. Each of these represented .004% (less than one half of one hundredth of one percent) of the $4 trillion federal budget in 2016.  This miniscule cut to the federal budget would inflict devastating and irreparable damage to so many involved in the arts and humanities. This is specifically true within our bluegrass music community and other forms of American roots music where artists, performing arts centers and venues, not-for-profit festivals, and other industry professionals rely on grants from the NEA and NEH to make a modest living and contribute to the U.S. economy, in stark contrast to other musical genres featured prominently on commercial media outlets who rightfully do not benefit from such grants.
Furthermore, according to Americans for the Arts in their study entitled Arts & Economic Prosperity IV, not-for-profit arts and culture organizations and their audiences alone generated $135.2 billion of economic activity in 2010 and generate over $22 billion in revenue to local, state, and federal governments every year. The NEA estimated the impact to be $704 billion in 2013 if considering all arts and cultural production. This multiplier effect creates an overwhelmingly compelling return on investment of our tax dollars.     

We realize fiscal responsibility comes with difficult choices. However, the choice to fund the NEA and NEH should not be one that is difficult. It is vital to maintain our commitment to arts and humanities. Otherwise, our nation suffers a meaningful loss of its cultural heritage, we turn our backs on children, and we turn our backs on talented and hard working professionals who choose their careers based on art, education, and community rather than great financial reward.
We strongly encourage you to support the arts and humanities by maintaining the same, or even increasing, the financial commitment to the NEA and NEH as this country has done for more than 50 years.
Paul Schiminger
Executive Director,
International Bluegrass Music Association

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John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.