When news circulated about Trump’s budget cuts to the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, I’m not sure the immediate thoughts where the effects to the south. My thoughts at least weren’t going there at least. As with anything as complicated as the American budget, there are far-reaching effects that may be hard to recover from.
Take the cuts to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for instance. Had those type of cuts occurred within the last few years, we may have never had the podcast S-Town, one of the most critically acclaimed podcast so far this year. S-Town tracks the life of John B. McLemore (no relation), and his personal connections within his town in Alabama. S-Town does have legitimate criticisms, but on the whole it gives a rare glimpse of the struggles and unnerving realities of living life in rural Alabama.
With the National Endowment for the Arts, my immediate thought was Broadway plays and art galleries in major metropolises. Yet an interesting CBS story highlights how the endowment affects the opposite of that narrative. The story covers Appalshop, a non-profit arts center located in Letcher County, Kentucky. It shows how Appalshop’s important not only to the county’s economy (They have 18 full-time employees and five part-time employees and have a million-dollar payroll annually according to program director and fundraiser Ada Smith), but also capturing the culture of Kentucky. They’ve filmed movies that exposed audiences to Kentucky’s musical legacy to black families who recently moved from Alabama.
Sadly it takes the possibilities of budget cuts to understand importance of things like S-Town or Appalshop. There’s been a recent narrative that we need to listen more to the rural working class. While I think that’s an overblown solution to a complicated problem, its just wrong to cut off an opportunity for their voices to be heard. These cuts would do just that, and that’s the most frustrating part.
I’m not sure what type of difference saving Appalshop or funding for future projects like S-Town will have. The hope is that people realize that things like the art and public broadcasting does more good than harm. This an even greater goal in rural America. I’ve read a ton of articles and listened to a bunch of “experts” about this very topic. The general consensus is that shit like that is hard to do. Hopefully highlighting stories like those two will makes it easier.