Statement on President Trump’s 2019 Federal Budget Request

February 26, 2018

By: A Joint Statement

President Trump has delivered his budget request to Congress for fiscal year 2019, which proposes significant cuts to and, in some cases, the complete elimination of key federal agencies – like the National Endowment for the Arts. This has the potential both to end valuable direct investments in our local communities and to dismantle tremendous partnerships with philanthropy that have strengthened our country.

As just one example, in 2011, we were so inspired by work that the National Endowment for the Arts was doing through its “Our Town” investments that we came together to capitalize ArtPlace America, which exists to extend and build upon the federal government’s work enlisting the arts and culture sector as an ally in creating equitable, healthy, and sustainable communities of all sizes across the country.

This partnership – which has invested more than $100 million to date in communities that span the country from Kivalina, AK to Boston, MA, from Bastrop, TX to Minot, ND  – has allowed us an even closer look at what is possible only when private philanthropies have strong and robust partners in the federal government. 

Some seven years ago, it was the then Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts who was able to bring us together as foundation leaders because his agency had a strong history of investing in each of our communities.  He was also able to bring together senior officials from agencies like the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency because he was their peer in federal government.

Together, we have worked more effectively than we could have done alone exactly because the public sector and philanthropy are not meant to do the same thing.

Federal agencies are charged with serving all Americans in every community; no private philanthropy has the resources or the infrastructure to do that.  Foundation dollars are meant to be risk capital; public funding exists to bring tested interventions to scale.  Government is responsive to voters through election cycles; foundations are charged with thinking across longer timelines.

We coalesced around a shared commitment to strengthen local communities.  And, in this case, we came together because we all understood that artists are a resource present in every community.  We also understood that those artists help root us in our communities, help connect us with our neighbors, and help to drive civic participation.  Quite simply, we understood that it is not possible to have strong local communities without having a strong arts and culture sector.

If we lose federal agencies like the National Endowment for the Arts, we will not only lose significant direct investments in communities across all 50 states, we also lose the infrastructure that brings us together as one United States of America.


James E. Canales
President and Trustee
Barr Foundation
Boston, MA        

Patricia E. Harris
Chief Executive Officer
Bloomberg Philanthropies
New York, NY

Phillip W. Henderson
Surdna Foundation
New York, NY

Diane Kaplan
President and CEO
Rasmuson Foundation
Anchorage, AK

Earl Lewis
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
New York, NY

Shawn D. McCaney
Executive Director
William Penn Foundation
Philadelphia, PA

Rip Rapson
President and CEO
The Kresge Foundation
Troy, MI

Jennifer Ford Reedy
The Bush Foundation
St. Paul, MN

Douglas Bitonti Stewart
Executive Director
Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation
Southfield, MI

Darren Walker
Ford Foundation
New York, NY

Kate Wolford
The McKnight Foundation
Minneapolis, MN