Proposed cut to federal funding threatens art programs in New Mexico


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Take away $30,000 in federal funding from a local art program and it will have to start sending students home. It’s something Working Classroom refuses to accept for the sake of its students.

However, it could happen with President Donald Trump’s new proposal to terminate a grant that helps fund art programs across the state.

“If we have to get smaller, you know, that’s what we’ll have to do until we find other funds,” Executive Director Gabrielle Uballez said.

Uballez said she isn’t giving up just yet.

For nearly 30 years Working Classroom has opened its doors to students from around the community. It has received the National Endowment for the Arts grant almost every year for the last 15 years. Because of that money, its students have had several opportunities to work with artists from all over the country.

“This allows us to bring big names to our space to work with students,” Uballez said. “To increase their network and make impactful art that is relevant to our community.”

Whether that art is a mural painted on a city street, or photography and play writing, Working Classroom does it all. The program works with nearly 200 students each year.

“These students don’t just sign up for one session,” Uballez said. “Some are here from the time they’re in middle school until they graduate high school.”

It’s a place where Uballez said she’s witnessed so many students gain confidence in their art. Take for example, Sergio Granados.

“He [Granados’ teacher] said that I really had a talent for this. So it really inspired me to keep going,” Granados said. “A lot of the things that we’re learning are things college students don’t even get to learn.”

Each year, Working Classrooms’ art program gives its students the opportunity to work alongside well-known artists. If this grant gets pulled, so would some of the programs at Working Classroom.

“The grant is in the amount of $30,000. It’s not something you come by everyday, especially in New Mexico,” Uballez said.

Uballez said around 90 percent of its students are on scholarships, so Working Classroom depends on the National Endowment for the Arts grant. But this week, the Trump administration proposed a plan threatening to cut the funding.

“What’s terrifying about losing this grant is it’s showing a national trend of what will and will not be funded,” Uballez said. “It’s also pretty terrifying because receiving a federal grant is kind of like receiving a seal of approval.”

Working Classroom isn’t alone. Other art programs in New Mexico, like Basement Films Inc, Outpost Productions Inc and Santa Fe Opera would lose out too — programs that have turned artists into family.

“It’s just a really good support system, it’s really nice to have this kind of space where I can just go to,” Tarynn Di’Nnovati said.

Students plan to write letters to state congressmen and women in the next few weeks. The grant provided $472,000 dollars to 17 different art programs in New Mexico this year.

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