The Trump Administration’s “America First Budget” will eliminate programs like the National Endowments for the Arts. The NEA’s “funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities.” (arts.gov) Mick Mulvaney, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget is justifying this cut by saying that programs like the NEA “really isn’t helping anybody.”
I beg to differ.
Theatre saved my life. The week before I started seventh grade my parents split up. A story that a lot of people can probably relate to. I was scared, I was starting a new school, my best friend decided I wasn’t cool enough for her and my home life was being turned upside down. I certainly wasn’t the cool kid, I was chubby and I had no friends which made me an easy target for bullies. I had nothing positive going for me and then there was an announcement in home room about auditions for Drama Club. Drama Club provided a place that I could be after school that wasn’t my dysfunctional home and I was surrounded by people that were “weird” just like me. Theatre didn’t make my old friends like me again, it didn’t stop the bullies and it didn’t bring my parents back together but it provided a safe place for a vulnerable twelve year old to express herself and feel happy even if it was just a few hours after school.
I continued theatre through high school and for a little while in college. My high school’s theatre program provided a place where I could be myself, where I found my confidence and where I felt the most at home. Arts programs provide a family outside of our home lives for people whose home lives are less than perfect.
I have the privilege of volunteering for the theatre program at my old middle school and providing the same safe space that that program gave me ten years ago. I have students in similar situations to mine when I discovered drama club and I have students with home lives that blow mine out of the water.
Mulvaney says “these programs that we’ve targeted … can’t justify their existence.” Well I can, these programs provide community, confidence and purpose to millions of students in this country and to suggest that they don’t work is insulting to the men and women that run those programs and to the people whose lives those programs have changed. All students need outlets, some play sports, some paint, some play instruments and some perform. Don’t take away these outlets.