US president Donald Trump has confirmed a previously leaked proposal to eliminate both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of his first federal budget plan for 2018. The independent federal agencies, with a combined budget of $300m annually, provide grants for arts and humanities projects, which have resulted in a number of Pulitzer Prize-winning books.
Trump's budget marks the first time a president has called for ending the endowments since their creation in 1965 under president Lyndon Johnson, according to the New York Times.
NEA and NEH fellowships and grants have helped support cultural institutions like universities and museums for decades and have resulted in Pulitzer Prize wins for a number of authors. The NEH awarded more than $4m in grants for book-related projects in 2016, while the NEA has named 17 writers to fellowships in the fiscal year 2017.
William Adams, chairman of the National Endowmen for the Humanities, said in a statement: "We are greatly saddened to learn of this proposal for elimination, as NEH has made significant contributions to the public good."
PEN America has organised a petition in protest against the changes, which has already amassed in excess of 200,000 signatures, including Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood. It urges: "Eliminating these vital agencies would lessen America's stature as a haven for free thinkers and a global leader in humanity's shared quest for knowledge.
"The Trump budget – if enacted – would erase federal funding for the arts and humanities, depriving artists and scholars of crucial support for the work that fuels America's innovation and creativity, and hindering efforts to allow all Americans to enjoy and participate in our vibrant national culture. Stand with artists, writers, researchers, scholars, educators and everyday individuals in opposing Donald Trump's budget that undermines US leadership and innovation in arts, culture, and the humanities."