Amy Trinh '20: How Nixon and the National Endowment for the Arts made Federal Design a National Priority
In the Fiscal Year 2020 reports by the current administration, there is a proposal to eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts from the federal budget. This federal agency has both given Americans opportunities to develop their creative capacities and affirm America’s identity. Previously in the 1960s, the NEA’s funding was under threat of expiration until President Richard M. Nixon advocated to Congress to extend the legislation. With the committed support of the federal administration, there was an evident reordering of national priorities during this era. Because the NEA has a breath of contributions including the enrichment of music, theatre, and public art, the scope of this project focuses in depth on the introduction of design as a necessity. Through my research at the Nixon Presidential Library and Archives, it becomes apparent how much of a “critical role [the federal government had] in encouraging better design”. By way of the NEA the Federal Design Improvement Program was established under Nixon’s leadership, leading to the rebranding of forty-five agencies within the government. Further research through White House Memorandums, Federal Design Assembly materials, and other resources reflect the NEA program’s milestones and challenges of implementing change. By researching the relationship of domestic policy to effective design in the 1970s; it allows for the analysis and retrospection of how consistent support, rallying awareness, and interdisciplinary collaboration can leave a lasting impression on our nation.