A bipartisan group of 24 US senators, led by New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand, have written a letter to President Trump in support of the National Endowment of the Arts and Humanities (NEA and NEH), which are among nine agencies reportedly targeted by the administration for elimination as part of an effort to curb government spending.

“These federal agencies provide vital support and resources to endeavours in the arts and humanities across the country that serve as drivers of innovation and economic prosperity,” the letter reads, before outlining the important scholarly, historical and cultural work the organisations have fostered over their 50 year history.

Read the whole letter HERE or on The Art Newspaper HERE.

With so many tangible threats to culture over in the States, things can start to look a bit gloomy. But these are indeed the times to strive when challenged, and the times when it is useful to review what is working, what should be upheld and bolstered, and what could be done better.

Here in the UK, with some major director-level shifts and changes, questions are being asked, particularly regarding the incoming directors of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) and the Tate, who may on the surface appear to be joining institutions in good shape…but they still face significant challenges. Tristram Hunt, who assumed his role at the V&A this week, is a social historian and, until last month, a Labour Member of Parliament. He has never worked in a museum—let alone run one. Maria Balshaw, who takes over the Tate in June, has much more institutional experience, as the director of Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery for just over a decade, and before that an academic and an Arts Council administrator. The pair will bring fresh ideas, but will need to rely on specialist advice and much support from the institutions’ leading curators. Hunt will have to battle with a new field, competing interests, an East London expansion, problems of storage and an increasing desire for the institution to play a global role. Maria Balshaw has a tough act to follow in Nicholas Serota, the flagging attendance of Tate Britain, necessary fundraising for Tate Modern’s expansion and the urges for reassessment of the Turner Prize to consider…not to mention the fact that Tate is now comprised of four museums in the UK.

Watch, wait, and – hopefully – learn…

The V&A’s new courtyard and underground exhibition galleries are due to open in July
(Image: © Allies & Morrison)

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