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Eliminating Federal Arts Funding Would Affect Nevada Statewide


The National Endowment for the Arts is at risk.

The independent federal agency could lose its funding next year if Congress approves President Trump’s proposed budget.

In Nevada, the NEA funds nearly a million dollars in creative endeavors throughout the state each year. The majority of NEA funds goes to the Nevada Arts Council, a state-run office that provides grants to organizations throughout Nevada

The NEA and the Nevada Arts Council declined to join this conversation.

Ally Haynes-Hamblen is the director of City of Las Vegas Office of Cultural Affairs. She said the office gets about $18,000 from the NEA each year. She said the amount doesn't seem like a lot, but it's used mostly for youth arts education.

“It’s our under-the radar-programming — the outreach, the education programming, the artists that go into the schools — that’s really what this grant funding really supports more than anything else,” Haynes-Hamblen said.

She said if funding from the NEA stopped programs would have to change.

"We would most definitely have to scale them back," she said, "probably do fewer concerts, reduce the size and scope of our book festival.”

It is not just what gets funded by the NEA that matters, says Beth MacMillan, executive director of Artown Reno. She said getting money from the endowment sends a message to charitable organizations. 

“For me, the endorsement of getting National Endowment for the Arts funding is a very credible stamp of approval for your organization,” she said.

Her group gets $25,000 from the NEA, plus additional funds from the Nevada Arts Council, to put on the Artown Reno festival each July. She said the festival gives everyone a sense of community, introduces people to new artists, and provides a gathering place for the whole area. 

She believes the city of Reno and Washoe County are both dedicated to growing arts and culture. And while she doesn't want the funding to disappear, she believes donors will step up to keep it going if necessary.

One area of the state that could be hurt the most if funding is eliminated is rural Nevada. Many small theaters, art galleries and dance companies get funding through the NEA. One of those is the Churchill Arts Council of Fallon, which received $30,000 from the NEA in 2016, plus money from the Nevada Arts Council.

Valerie Serpa is the executive director. She said the council provides all kinds of art experiences for people living in the small town and surrounding area. Without the funding, those experiences could go away. 

“If there is literally less money out there to support the arts, we are going to have do far less programming than we’ve doing,” Serpa told KNPR's State of Nevada.

She said people in the arts community in Fallon and those outside are concerned about what could happen if the funding is scaled back or cut altogether. 

If the NEA is eliminated, Haynes-Hamblen believes arts communities around the country will have to band together and leverage resources to keep up their missions. But before the funding is cut completely, she believes those communities will let their voices heard about what the funding means to them. 

“There will definitely be a big roar from the arts community,” she said. 

Ally Haynes-Hamblen, director, City of LV Office of Cultural Affairs; Beth MacMillan, executive director, Artown Reno;  Valerie Serpa, executive director, Churchill Arts Council of Fallon

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Kristy Totten is a producer at KNPR's State of Nevada. Previously she was a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly, and has covered technology, education and economic development for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. She's a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism.