The easiest thing is to expect the worst.
How could Donald Trump, snippy tweeter, reality TV huckster and the only human to give “Hamilton” a bad review — without seeing it, of course — be anything but bad for the arts?
The reality, though, is that the president-elect hasn’t said much on the subject, other than a few noncommittal responses to a Washington Post questionnaire in March.
We do know there has been grumbling. Arts leaders on the coasts, where politics lean harder left, have not been shy. “Upset, bewildered, betrayed,” says James Cuno, president and chief executive of the J. Paul Getty Trust in Los Angeles, when asked to describe his response to Trump’s victory. Molly Smith, the artistic director of Arena Stage, compared Nov. 8 to these moments in history: The assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and President John F. Kennedy, 9/11 and the Newtown massacre.
The key is not what Trump tweets. It will come when he makes decisions in wonkier areas, on tax codes and budget proposals, both key to how arts institutions and other nonprofit groups raise public and private money. Ticket sales generally only bring in a small portion of what museums, symphonies and theaters need to survive. They depend on donations and grants from public sources, including state arts councils and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Sandra Swirski says she has advice for art museums or any cultural institutions. Call big donors and let them know that they should consider making gifts before the end of the year.
“We’re not sure what’s going to happen after that,” she said. “So give now, don’t wait.”
hilanthropist David Bohnett, whose donations have included more than $20 million to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, $10 million to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and $5 million to the Kennedy Center, says both candidates frustrated him during the campaign.
“Anything that reduces the amount of private sector philanthropy is a big concern because it’s not being made up by the public sector,” says Bohnett.