NEW YORK—More than 200,000 Americans have joined PEN America, the Daily Kos, and other progressive groups in calling on Congress to reject the proposed federal budget revealed today and to save federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

America’s most prominent writers and artists across a wide array of genres–including painter Jasper Johns, actor John Lithgow, singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash, cartoonist Art Spiegelman, and novelists Hanya Yanagihara, Salman Rushdie, Neil Gaiman, and Anne Tyler–are leading a petition to protect federal funding for the arts that supports literature, scholarly research, visual arts, dance, theater, museums, and arts education programs around the country to ensure that all Americans can access cultural works and activities.

“Funding for the NEA and NEH each constitute only .003% of federal spending, an investment that supports some of the world’s greatest literature, art, and cultural institutions,” the petition reads. “Eliminating these vital agencies would lessen America’s stature as a haven for free thinkers and a global leader in humanity’s shared quest for knowledge.”

The proposed federal budget–developed from a “blueprint” by the conservative Heritage Foundation and advanced by Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, a financial hardliner–allocates an additional $54 billion to military and defense spending with major cuts to other programs, including the complete defunding of the NEA and the NEH. 

“The elimination of the NEA and the NEH under the proposed federal budget would be a betrayal of the U.S. government’s long history of bipartisan support for innovation in the arts and for groundbreaking research, and could threaten the future of some of the most treasured national institutions,” said Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director of PEN America. “There is no economic argument for the decimation of arts funding that makes up less than one one-hundredth of a percent of our national spending; this effort must instead be regarded and rejected as part of an intensive campaign to delegitimize artists and intellectuals whose skepticism and provocations could threaten the Trump agenda.”

The petition was initiated by the literary and free expression organization PEN America and the activist hub Daily Kos in partnership with the Asian American Arts Alliance, Brave New Films, the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses, the Dramatists Guild, Free Press Action Fund, LAMBDA Literary, Left Action, The Nation, The Other Stories, People Demanding Action, People For the American Way,, and the Zero Hour.

“The programs funded by the NEA and the NEH reach U.S. residents across income levels, faiths, and races,” said Mara Schechter, Campaign Director at Daily Kos. “These programs encourage children to think independently, help wounded veterans heal, and provide shared spaces for communities to gather–they bolster the foundations of our democracy.”


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

CONTACT: Sarah Edkins, Director of Communications: [email protected], +1 646.779.4830