Published in the Washington Post | March 21, 2017
700 cultural leaders gather in Washington to fight for arts funding
By Peggy McGlone
Ford Foundation President Darren Walker gave a lecture Monday night at the Kennedy Center, where he urged the audience to fight for the $970 million budgets of the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Institute of Museum and Library Services,
“Art is not a privilege. It is the soul of our country, the beating heart of our humanity,” Walker said. “And in these times, these menacing, perilous challenging times, we need the arts and humanities more than ever before.”
Walker outlined reasons to support government funding and rebutted the rhetoric of those who want to see it eliminated. The arts are not luxuries, but are essential to community life in all sizes and geographies. They are an economic power and an emotional balm.
“All people also yearn for beauty and they also long for grace,” he said. “And the notion that low-income and working-class people do not derive meaning from the arts? That notion is insulting and ignorant.”
Published in The Hill | March 26, 2017
The arts aren’t a special interest. They’re a national interest.
By Darren Walker
Last week, we learned that the White House’s proposed budget would zero out funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, effectively shuttering these vital national treasures. I do not mean to give short shrift to the other budget reductions across the government that would have profound negative effects on millions of families and individuals in the U.S. But I want to focus here on what it means for this country to axe support for the arts.
In doing so, the administration has abrogated an enduring American principle that these organizations have supported for more than a half century: Creative expression is a public good.
This new proposal is hardly the first to discount and disregard the power of the arts. In school and municipal budgets, arts are usually the first thing cut when the books must be balanced. For decades, some even have contended that investments in the arts are a waste of taxpayer dollars. Philanthropies like the Ford Foundation should foot the bill, they say. Support artists through Kickstarter, they suggest. These arguments are a disservice to the American people.
Published in The Houston Chronicle | March 26, 2017
The arts are fuel for the American Dream
By Darren Walker
Growing up in a working-class small town in Texas during the 1960s, I could have been confined by low expectations at a young age, but, by chance, I was exposed to the arts in a way that broadened my horizons and expanded my perception of what was possible.
As a result, my imagination stretched beyond the limits of Liberty County, and carried me to the University of Texas, to UT law school, and ultimately, to the presidency of the Ford Foundation.
We do a disservice to the aspirations of all Americans if we zero out the funding to the arts and humanities, as the White House has proposed in its recently released budget.