Smithsonian Shutdown

Joanne Artman Gallery
Jan 3, 2019 5:09PM

Art lovers should hope this shutdown is mercifully brief as museum-goers and tourists encounter locked doors at all of Washington’s Smithsonian Institutes. The shutdown has left federal employees working without pay or furloughed without a job.

A closure of the Smithsonian would be just one way that everyday Americans will feel the effects of the shutdown, even if they don’t work for the federal government. The shuttered properties include the American History Museum, the Air and Space Museum, the African American Museum, the Portrait Gallery, The National Gallery, and the National Zoo as well as more than a dozen others in the District’s area alone.

Additionally, the government shutdown is affecting cities across the country such as Boston and New York’s historical landmarks and closures of all National Parks.

New York reopened the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, which were closed over the holiday weekend. Andrew Cuomo stressed the importance of the monuments’ continued access as he defended the state’s decision to cover operational costs during the shutdown. Speaking of the Statue of Liberty, he wrote in a tweet, “We will not stand by as this symbol of freedom and opportunity goes dark.”

Regardless of political affiliation or identity, the sad truth is that a government shutdown hurts the American people more than it hurts members of Congress and that a return to normalcy is essential for the public. About 800,000 federal employees, and the citizens who depend on them, are being hurt for an empty political stunt. The longer the shutdown continues, the more people will feel the financial pressures of working without pay, or simply not being able to work at all. Already, the Small Business Administration has been shut down, delaying the processing of loans. The closures of national parks, museums and historic sites disrupt tourism both for the sites and for surrounding businesses during a traditionally high traffic time.

Public access to art in museums is vital. Closures of fine institutions bar citizens and tourists alike from engaging in American culture, history, and education. Treasured relics like the Star-Spangled Banner, Harriet Tubman’s shawl, the desk on which Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, and even Dorothy’s Ruby Red Slippers represent the rich history of America’s failures and triumphs. It is shameful that politics have become so divisive that federal employees are not paid, taxpayers are denied services as banal as trash removal, and the nation’s great museums and historical beacons remain unavailable to the public.

The new Democratic House is set to vote Thursday on a spending plan to end the shutdown without allocating more money for a border wall. Perhaps an end to the shutdown and the discussion of the border wall will be an education in the art of the deal.

Joanne Artman Gallery