Clearly, easy budget cuts are history and we are looking at painful cuts to vital services at every level – federal, state and local. But before we dismiss cultural programs like public radio and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) – what The News Tribune agrees are “nice-to-haves” (We agree, 3-3), let’s take a little closer look at two local examples of the ramifications of NEA support.
Small grants from the NEA Folk Arts Program led to the opening of the Commencement Bay Maritime Center in 1995. The once-deserted warehouse is now the highly successful Foss Waterway Seaport and a major regional attraction.
In the late 1970s, a public/private partnership involving arts funding from a variety of sources including the NEA launched the restoration of the Pantages Theater, which served as model and inspiration for Save Our Station and the rehabilitation/adaptive reuse of Union Station.
Union Station launched the revitalization of the southern end of downtown, making it an attractive candidate for a new history museum and the University of Washington Tacoma branch campus.
A crumbling warehouse, a dilapidated theater, a moldering train station. They might have been rubble. Arts funding helped turn them into engines for rebirth and revitalization.
Yes, these “nice-to-haves” feed our minds, our spirits and our souls. They also fuel our communities and economies.