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No Miró, no Picasso: How Trump’s proposal to kill NEA would hurt Seattle

As President Trump suggests abolishing the National Endowment for the Arts, local theater, film and museum leaders are rallying to come up with a response.

You know the artists: Pablo Picasso. Joan Miró. Monet, Manet and the other French Impressionists.

Without backing from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), none of those major exhibitions would have come to Seattle Art Museum, said current SAM director Kimerly Rorschach.

But, in a move this week that has appalled U.S. arts leaders, President Donald Trump proposed gutting the NEA and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

More on the president’s budget proposal

President Donald Trump’s $1.15 trillion spending plan envisions deep cuts to many government programs including those affecting Washington state.


“It was like a shock wave went through the community,” said ACT artistic director John Langs. “The fact that we’re even having this conversation opens up the question: ‘Who are we? Who do we want to be as a culture?’ ”

The NEA isn’t just an ATM — and some arts groups don’t rely on funding from the government agency for their survival. For some, what’s more important is the broad institutional support the NEA provides, which many don’t even know about.

For SAM, Rorschach said, the NEA’s checks aren’t as important as its international standing and, as she put it, its “good-housekeeping stamp of approval,” which opens the door for other funders and some other — less literal — forms of support, beyond dollars and cents.

The NEA’s indemnity program, for example, provides insurance to ship valuable artworks from Europe with assurance that the federal government could cover the costs if, say, a Picasso painting was irreparably damaged along the way.

SAM has never needed to cash in on that indemnity money, Rorschach added — but without it, she’s sure that the Picasso shows and other major, significant art…

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