Wyoming stood to lose more than most states when President Donald Trump proposed eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for Humanities in his March budget.
Congress has the ultimate say on the nation’s budget, though, and so far has approved maintaining the two federal agencies.
State arts organization leaders and advocates have said Trump’s proposed cuts would impact the economy, education and well-being of communities in Wyoming.
“New York can make up its funding through donors, but Wyoming and the other small states, we just don’t have the population to replace that kind of funding,” Wyoming Humanities Council Executive Director Shannon Smith told the Star-Tribune in March.
The arts and humanities endowments each receive about $150 million annually, about 40 percent of which goes to states’ arts and humanities organizations to disperse into communities.
Advocates including the Wyoming Arts Alliance communicated with Wyoming’s congressional delegation about the impacts of Trump’s budget proposal.
“Places where the states’ arts agencies are very important, such as Wyoming, where we have grants out in every single county, will notice and notice right away,” longtime arts advocate, researcher and Wyoming Arts Alliance board member Bruce Richardson said at the time.
Eliminating the NEH would shutter the Wyoming Humanities Council, which supports cultural organizations and provides programs to help Wyoming explore historical and cultural issues through mediums such as library reading programs, museum lectures, documentaries and podcasts with cultural leaders.
Closing the NEA would significantly impact the Wyoming Arts Council’s work, which includes funding and supporting arts nonprofits, symphonies, museums and various programs through the state. Wyoming also would lose direct grants and other services.
The proposed federal cuts would undermine Wyoming’s tourism industry, jobs and already-struggling economy, several arts and culture supporters said.
“We’re a huge part of economic tourism, cultural heritage tourism,” Smith said. “We put events and exhibits on in towns like Torrington and Kemmerer and bring people to those towns.”
Smith has heard from people around the state who’ve contacted Wyoming’s congressional delegation, which also has shown understanding for what the two state councils bring to the Wyoming, she said this month.
“It highlighted the support that we have and how much we’re valued in the communities,” Smith said.