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Celebrities Applaud Trump, Brand Karen Pence 'Ally' After Arts Funding Increase

Vice President Mike Pence arrives with his wife Karen for a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Trump at Mar-a-Lago on April 18, 2018, in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

WASHINGTON – Actor Tim Daly from “Madame Secretary,” who serves as the president of the Creative Coalition, said he hopes the National Endowment for the Arts will no longer be used as a “bargaining chip” in federal spending decisions and praised Karen Pence as an “ally” who understands the value of federal funding for the arts.

President Trump had initially proposed eliminating the NEA but ultimately signed a spending bill that hiked funding by $3 million to $152.8 million. Daly applauded the budget increase.

“I’m cautiously optimistic. I’m so thankful to the people that voted to keep the NEA and to give it a boost and I think that second lady Pence is, you know, I think she’s an ally. She wasn’t there today, we spoke with her chief of staff, but she gets it – so I think we have an ally there and we have a lot of allies on Capitol Hill,” Daly said at the organization’s “#RightToBearArts” gala that was held Friday after a group of entertainers advocated for federal funding the arts in the halls of Congress.

“It seems like the NEA is always some kind of minor bargaining chip and I would like that to not be the case. I would like it to be something that no one would dream of zeroing out in any budget,” he added. “So we still have work to do but I am optimistic.”

Sean Giambrone, 18, who plays Adam Goldberg on “The Goldbergs,” similarly expressed optimism about the future of the NEA and said he is “grateful” for the $3 million budget increase.

“We’re always hoping for another increase, of course, but yeah, very grateful for that increase,” he said.

Actress Victoria Justice, 25, from “Victorious” also said she hopes the NEA’s budget is increased again for the next fiscal year. Justice was asked if lawmakers were receptive to the message of the entertainers in the coalition.

“Everyone we met with was very receptive, actually, I think a lot of them really understand how important the arts are – there’s art therapy and obviously there’s the spiritual benefits we all believe art provides people and the happiness and joy it can bring, but also economically I think it’s important to a lot of these communities,” she said. “So I think they see both sides of the story there.”

“Arts funding is super important and it’s been around for a while, and I think we need to continue and be vocal for that support,” she added.

Actor Richard Schiff of “The West Wing” and “Ballers” said involvement in the arts helps students in other subjects.

“When it’s involved in the education system it keeps kids in school, it helps kids be better in school. It’s been shown that involvement in the arts helps them be better at math and in science and in other subjects. It creates a way of thinking differently and out of the box. It creates a different perspective,” Schiff said at the gala, which took place the night before the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

“The exponential progress that we’ve made technically from people who are thinking differently and have a different perspective on what already exists, that’s what the NEA in my mind helps to promote,” he added. “And the fact that anyone wants to kill that, especially when it returns your investment, is beyond my imagination.”

He criticized Trump for initially proposing to eliminate the NEA’s funding before signing the increase into law.

“I know that when a president of the United States states out loud that he wants to kill the National Endowment for the Arts and all the good that they do, to me it asks questions of, does a person who wants to kill the NEA know anything about what the NEA does?” Schiff said. “And do they know that the return of investment is seven to nine dollars to one? If Donald Trump had that return of investment for his businesses he never would be president; he would just be gone. It is an incredible investment and return.”