Local youth theater company could hurt from Trump\'s reported arts cut

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COLUMBIA - The future of the arts is uncertain after The Hill reported President Trump will eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The report says this is in an effort to shrink federal spending by $10.5 trillion over the next 10 years.

The Missouri Arts Council is funded by the NEA and gives grants to Performing Arts in Children’s Education (PACE) in Columbia. PACE received more than $11,000 in grant funds this year from the council.

“The arts are what make us who we are as human beings,” said PACE Co-artistic Director Angela Howard. “It’s beauty. It’s what inspires us. It’s what makes us want to be better people.”

Howard has been part of the performing arts her entire life. She said PACE’s mission is to raise its children to appreciate the arts. The children’s theater program puts on 4-5 main productions a year and also offers dance and theater classes.

Julie O’Neal, a PACE parent, has had two children involved in the program. She said the arts has benefited her son, Tyler.

“It’s changed my children a lot,” O’Neal said. “Tyler as a young child was extremely shy and not involved in much. He decided he wanted to give it a shot on stage and it totally changed who he was.”

Another PACE parent, Bonnie Carter, said she supports the arts as well. Her son, Jeromy, has been a part of PACE productions since 2012.

“He absolutely loves it,” Carter said. “When he started with PACE, we have watched him become who he is. His character and his personality has just blossomed through being a part of PACE.

Trump has not confirmed The Hill repot but has been outspoken about cutting spending to balance the budget. Carter said she’s still worried the cuts could be devastating for the arts.

“It being dropped on this kind of level, yeah it’s scary to think that we might not be able to have these organizations that our kids can be a part of,” Carter said.

O’Neal said she agrees.

“If that money’s not there, we might not be able to do everything we can do for these children,” O’Neal said. “If it got bad enough, I don’t know that we could survive without having some grant support.”

Howard said some people might not understand the expenses PACE has.

“Funding is everything,” Howard said. “We have to pay rent, we have to pay utilities, equipment needs to be fixed, and so those funds make a difference for an organization like ours to survive.”

Howard says PACE will power through and continue to focus on its students.

“When they leave here, they have a toolbox of skills they can take into any profession,” Howard said. “The goal is for them to learn to love the art form.”

Other federal agencies reported to be in danger of losing funds include the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Endowment for the Humanities and the Economic Development Administration.