Budget cuts to the arts on the horizon for Iowans

iowa state capitol

Melanie.Van Horn.Com

For Iowa State student Isabella Brewer, the definition of “the arts” goes beyond many people’s first impression. 

She said they teach students to be more well-rounded and educated.

But the potential to go beyond the first impression is threatened by recent cuts to funding for the arts in a new fiscal plan made by Iowa lawmakers.

The budget plan was created to combat a $118 million shortfall in government funding after revenues fell short of their projected amounts. In addition to cuts made to other state agencies, the plan cuts $6.1 million from the state’s cultural trust fund.

For Brewer, freshman in the College of Design majoring in visual culture studies, the cuts are more than a financial decision. 

“People are passionate about the arts. We’re told to do what we’re passionate about,” Brewer said. “It’s not just, ‘Do what you’re passionate about as long as it’s science.'” 

The cultural trust fund was created in 2002 to help fund arts programs across Iowa in a sustainable, long-term way. The current cuts leave lawmakers unsure if the fund will remain active or will need to be shut down completely.

Protesters gathered throughout the week at the state Capitol to petition lawmakers to restore funding to the trust fund, but the budget plan was approved by Gov. Terry Branstad on Wednesday. 

Iowa’s upcoming cuts to arts funding aren’t the only ones on the horizon. A recent report by political news website The Hill included the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) as a rumored program to be eliminated by President Donald Trump as part of a plan to cut trillions of dollars in spending. The Trump administration has not yet commented on plans to defund the NEA.

Brewer believes the cuts to arts funding possess far more negative effects than positive ones, and she maintains that arts are just as vital as other branches of government funding. 

“I don’t think that any branch is more important. You need artists, you can’t have a building without an architect,” Brewer said. 

Though the cuts have already been approved, Brewer said the cuts may bring much-needed attention to the arts and hopes that the lack of funding will spark a conversation about their necessity in today’s world. 

“If we were more educated on what art and design is, it would be easier to integrate it into everyday life,” Brewer said.