In the Eye of the Storm: How Federal Funding Rescues Arts and Culture in Times of Disaster

Thursday, September 7, 2017

In the Eye of the Storm: How Federal Funding Rescues Arts and Culture in Times of Disaster

Beginning the weekend of August 26–27, Hurricane Harvey bore down on Texas and Western Louisiana, surpassing records for total rainfall from a single hurricane in the continental US, and displacing thousands of families. It’s too soon to tell exactly how much damage the storm has caused, but we know it’s far-reaching and not over. As the country’s fourth-largest city, Houston is home to a number of venerable arts and cultural institutions, including the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, the Menil Collection, and the Houston Grand Opera’s Wortham Theater Center. While early assessment of these venues suggests low-level or moderate damage, others like the Alley Theatre and the Rockport Center for the Arts did not fare as well, and smaller arts and cultural organizations may not be on responders’ radar yet.

As we plan for natural disasters and the safety of individuals, we often neglect the institutions that capture our history and preserve memories of American life, allowing us to explore and better understand our national culture. When museums, libraries, and performing arts venues are at their most vulnerable, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) are essential responders with a responsibility to preserve and protect these invaluable resources. Where collections have been damaged by hurricanes, earthquakes and other disasters, these federal agencies can—and do—respond quickly.   These funders work in collaboration with other key federal and national organizations such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Smithsonian Institution when disasters strike. . .

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