U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was at the Strand Center for the Arts in Plattsburgh this morning to advocate for the restoration of funding to the arts and humanities that has been zeroed out in President Trump’s budget proposal.
Senator Gillibrand toured the newly renovated 1920’s-era Strand Theatre before meeting with local leaders and arts advocates. She says President Trump’s proposed elimination of funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute for Museum and Library Services and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting are ill-conceived and devastating. The Democrat says the resources the groups provide are critical. “They make it so that arts and humanities are available to everyone. They give our students more opportunities to learn about our history. They give veterans a new lens to learn about their experiences and reintegrate into the communities. They give local museums more resources to teach children. They fund educational programs on PBS. And the economic benefits are just as clear. Around the country almost 3 million people are in jobs related to the creation or distribution of the arts. And here in New York more than 5 percent of the businesses are related to arts and creative businesses. So it’s a huge part of New York’s economy. It would be devastating for our communities in our state and damaging to so many families and schools across the North Country if these institutions are eliminated.”
Strand Center for the Arts Executive Director Joshua Kretser says Senator Gillibrand is passionate about the arts and is a key ally in advocating for continued funding. “Every year we receive money from the New York State Council on the Arts, which helps us to subsidize general operating expenses associated with our arts and education programming at the Strand Center. So it would be a challenge if we stopped receiving that funding, not only for us but art centers throughout the country. And it’s wonderful to have a community of very generous people. But you can only ask people in the area for money so many times before you need to look for other funding sources. And the state has been that for us and also the federal government at times. And we need to make sure that we preserve this in the budget so that we have not lost all that we’ve built in the arts throughout the years.”
Plattsburgh Mayor Colin Read is a board member of the local public television station. “I’m incredibly concerned about this wonderful asset. You know it’s one of those diverse voices. I just couldn’t imagine losing either public radio or public television. We need all the voices we can from all sides of the political spectrum, for that matter too.”
Gillibrand reported that a bipartisan letter co-signed by 23 Senators has been sent to the president urging a reversal of the funding cuts to the arts. But Gillibrand and her party appear to have few options in the GOP-led Senate.