- Not enactedThe President has not signed this bill
- The senate has not voted
- The house has not voted
Committee on Foreign AffairsIntroducedApril 8th, 2019
- house Committees
What is House Bill H.R. 2127?
Cost of House Bill H.R. 2127
In-Depth: Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN) introduced this bill to stop the federal government from spending any money on art for overseas U.S. embassies. Rep. Burchett’s office argues that if passed, this bill wouldn’t cut the Art in Embassies Program — but it would stop new taxpayer dollars’ use for the program. In lieu of spending government money, Rep. Burchett has suggested that the government could get creative and develop a loaner program with the Smithsonian or something similar.
However, ArtNet News points out, it’s unclear how new exhibitions would be funded without AIE funds, since this bill prohibits the federal government from not only paying for the art itself, but also for transporting and installing it.
Rep. Burchett was inspired to introduced this bill when he found out that as part of the State Dept.’s Art in Embassies program, officials had cut a check for $84,375 for an iron sculpture created by singer-songwriter Bob Dylan for the soon-to-be-completed U.S. Embassy in Mozambique. In response to critics who say this isn’t enough money to worry about, Rep. Burchett says, “Eighty-four thousand dollars is a heck of a lot of money for somebody in East Tennessee … dad gum it, we need to get out of that mentality. We are in debt, and we’re just running towards socialism. We can’t continue at this rate if we’re to survive. There’s just no question.”
The Art in Embassies (AIE) program was established by President John F. Kennedy in 1963. Its aim is to “cross-cultural dialogue and mutual understanding” art displays at U.S. embassies and consulates around the world. As a public-private partnership, the program engages “over 20,000 international participants, including artists, museums, galleries, universities, and private collectors” to develop and present approximately 60 exhibitions a year. The program has also installed over 70 permanent art collections in the State Dept.’s diplomatic facilities in over 200 venues in 189 countries.
AIE’s supporters argue that it promotes U.S. soft power, projecting U.S. culture and influence. The program’s website adds, that AIE “advances cultural diplomacy through artist exchanges and the presentation of works by outstanding American and international artists to audiences around the world.” However, Rep. Burchett disagrees with this claim. He says, “I just don’t buy that. I think it’s another government boondoggle and people at the State (Department) are out of touch with reality. Money could be spent on something better, I’d think.”
Writing in "Musée Magazine," Ashley Yu expresses her opposition to this bill:
“Burchett’s defunding of the 'Art in Embassies' is essentially the elimination of cultural diversity and exchange. In Burchett’s crude plan to remove art from all American embassies, the Congressman would prohibit the use of any funds “for the purchase, installation, insurance or transport of any art” in any U.S. consulate or embassy, proposing instead a drab, sterile, and ugly interior that would make you feel like you walked into a mausoleum. It feels like a bleaching of the multicultural fabric that America is known for. I’m not going to be the first to pretend that just because the government rents a painting by an Israeli artist means that it will be forgiven for the Gulf War. But all cynicism aside, the ‘Art in Embassies’ program is the first step to encourage multiculturalism in America--an area that we are failing at with the election of a racist president. Don’t even get me started on the systematic murder of young black boys by the police, or the imprisonment of women who have abortions in Texas, or the inevitable environmental destruction of our planet. America is an absolute mess, but at least let people look at some cool art in the embassies so things can feel less hopeless than it is.”
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / coldsnowstorm)