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Budget cuts could limit Oregon students' exposure to arts

Trump administration wants to drop NEA funding

ASHLAND, Ore. - The proposed budget from the Trump administration would eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, and those who are involved with or benefit from such efforts say that could mean fewer children in Oregon will be exposed to art.

The state's world-renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival hosts hundreds of students each year because of more than $100,000 in grant money from the NEA. One of those is the Shakespeare in American Communities grant.

Eddie Wallace, associate director of communications for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, says that money is vital for giving students an experience of the theater.

"It helps us give discounts that keep the tickets affordable for students to come and have often their first encounter with Shakespeare on stage," he explains.

Wallace says part of the grant money goes to the Bowmer Project, which helps bring students from schools that are unable to afford the experience even with the discount, and also gives students and teachers workshop opportunities.

The White House says the cuts are necessary to eliminate wasteful spending in the budget and reduce the deficit. Congress must approve the budget, and it's likely there will be changes.

The NEA says one-third of its budget goes toward serving low-income audiences and that 40 percent of NEA-supported activities take place in high poverty neighborhoods.

Wallace says spring and fall are when the festivals see the most students, and in fact they make up a large chunk of the audience during those times. He says not only does the festival rely on their attendance, but the entire community of Ashland does.

"We're all very interdependent on each other here in town," he explains. "The student groups bring a lot of their food and gift-buying money to town and their presence, and it really makes the town hum."

Wallace says just as important is the inspirational experience children receive.

"Some folks who have gone on to either become major contributors to the festival or even company members to the festival," he explains. "They got the spark of live theater when they came on one of these trips."


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