Boston Museum Directors Pen Letter Defending NEA and NEH

Installation view of the MIT List Visual Arts Center's 2011 exhibition

Installation view of the MIT List Visual Arts Center’s 2011 exhibition “Juan Downey: The Invisible Architect,” which was partially funded by a $40,000 NEA grant.


Following the publication earlier this week of an op-ed by Metropolitan Museum of Art Director Thomas P. Campbell in the New York Times, several Boston museum directors have co-signed a letter about President Trump’s reported plans to propose a budget defunding the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Those signees are the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s Peggy Fogelman, the MIT List Visual Arts Center’s Paul Ha, the Institute of Contemporary Art’s Jill Medvedow, the Harvard Art Museums’ Martha Tedeschi, and the Museum of Fine Arts’ Matthew Teitelbaum.

The museum directors’ letter follows in full below.

As directors of Boston’s art museums, we serve as stewards of the public trust. So, we are alarmed at reports that the National Endowment for the Arts is under threat of being abolished, along with the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Each of these entities champions art and culture in communities across America.

In Boston, NEA and NEH funding has been instrumental at each of our museums, supporting our extensive programs of public access, teaching and scholarship, conservation, collection and exhibition. NEA and NEH grants supported the digitization and cataloging of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s singular collection; acquisition funds for works of art by American artists of color in The Heritage Fund for a Diverse Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the forthcoming exhibition Animal-Shaped Vessels from the Ancient World: Feasting with Gods, Heroes, and Kings at the Harvard Art Museums; the restoration of American artist Kenneth Noland’s only public art piece at MIT; and transformative art education programs for Boston public school middle and high school students at the ICA.

Federal support has been a critical piece of the puzzle for museums in our shared mission to foster knowledge, create cultural exchange, generate jobs and tourism, educate our youth, ignite the imagination of our audiences and nurture the creativity of working artists. Across the country – in communities small and large, urban and rural — the NEA and NEH help to guarantee access to the arts and the preservation and presentation of diverse cultural expression. The prestige and visibility of the NEA and NEH connects our entire cultural community, though we are well aware of the outsized influence of federal dollars at our most vulnerable arts institutions across America.

On Wednesday, our colleague Thomas Campbell of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times eloquently outlining how every museum relies not only on financial support but also on the advocacy of the NEA to strengthen communities through the arts.

We share the belief that access to the arts is at the core of a democratic and equitable society. During this moment of heightened national discord, the elimination of the NEA and NEH is not a cut our country can afford.

Art is, at its best, a dialogue. We hope that you’ll participate in the conversation about the importance of federal funding for the arts and join us as stewards of the public good.

Peggy Fogelman, Norma Jean Calderwood Director, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Paul Ha, Director, MIT List Visual Arts Center

Jill Medvedow, Ellen Matilda Poss Director, Institute of Contemporary Art

Martha Tedeschi, Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director, Harvard Art Museums

Matthew Teitelbaum, Ann and Graham Gund Director, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

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