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Proposed slashing of NEA & NEH affects Birmingham Museum of Art

Birmingham Museum of Art Director Gail Andrews said any proposed cuts to the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities will hurt programs at the museum.

If you ever visit the Magic City you might have toured the Birmingham Museum of Art, or Vulcan, or the Holocaust Education Center.

President Trump's budget proposal could affect all of those with plans to slash the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities.

The Director, Gail Andrews, said taxpayers would lose more in culture than money with this plan. Each person at home pays less than a dollar a year to the two agencies in taxes. Andrews said by taking the small investment away from the public you take the chance to learn about the world around you from any of their exhibits. For years, visitors of all ages come to tour the Birmingham Museum of Art to learn a painting's history or cultural significance of a statue. Andrews said federal budget proposals slashing the NEA and NEH concerned her. Andrews told ABC 33/40, "I think we really hold as a core value access to the arts and humanities. As part of core values as human beings."

The museum's annual budget is $6.8 million. The NEA funds the Alabama State Council on the Arts. The council then funds the museum: which can vary from $100,000 to $160,000 a year. A major potential loss. "It would have a significant impact," said Andrews. Money which goes to educational programs, school tours and projects for the visually impaired. Andrews worried more about cultural impact. She cited an example of a child. "They were touring the whole museum," said Andrews. "And as he was leaving the whole museum, he looked up at his docent (to say), the teachers, the guides who take children and adults through the museum (then said) 'I didn't know the world is so big'."

Nancy Sloan is one of those docents, who volunteers her time to explain the meaning behind the exhibits. Sloan said the thought of a child not having this option breaks her heart. Sloan told ABC 33/40, "I think the arts are very important in the community. I would be very distressed."

The budget will not be passed until later this year and some have asked Andrews why can't the museum simply find money from private donors. In fact, private donations make up half of the annual budget. But Andrews makes it clear it will make them struggle mightily. For example the Executive Director to the Alabama Humanities Foundation told us it gives $3,000 to $7,000 a year to the museum. This is funding from AHF which comes from the NEH that would no longer be there.

As of now, the art museum remains free to the public.

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