Under New Budget Veto, Alaska Could Be Only American State Without Arts Agency

As government-funded arts organizations struggle to survive amid cries for defunding from politicians, the latest organization in peril is the Alaska State Council on the Arts, which could—following a budget-plan veto by the state’s conservative governor, Mike Dunleavy—be eliminated entirely.

The Alaska arts council typically receives $700,000 from the state, as well as funds from private donors and the National Endowment for the Arts. (Funds from the NEA and private donors were also vetoed by Dunleavy, which would prevent the acceptance of $1.5 million.) If not overturned by state legislators, Dunleavy’s veto would make Alaska the only state without an official arts agency.

Roger Schmidt, the executive director of the Sitka Fine Arts Camp, told the Anchorage Daily News, “I think it’s a symbolic gesture from the governor [to veto] something he thinks is not important. It shows a callousness toward culture and heritage of our state.”

On Monday, Dunleavy announced significant slashes to budgets for various sectors across Alaska, cutting $444 million in funds in total. Among the sectors expected to suffer the most is Alaska’s education system—its state university would lose $130 million through the veto. The cut would make for an “unprecedented” impact on the education system in the state, according to one official.

The NEA and the National Endowment for the Humanities are among the most high-profile organizations to face calls for their defunding from Republican politicians. Each year since it took power, the Trump administration has proposed severely limiting the budgets for the NEA and NEH.

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