Obama talks about the value of arts. BP pumps them with cash.

One of the great disappointments of the Obama presidency has been its failure to foster the creative potential of America’s arts. Another, probably unforgettable, was the president’s xenophobic assaults on British Petroleum when a BP rig sprung a bad leak in the Gulf of Mexico. Made us all so  proud to be British (even though BP is not).

This morning at the British Museum, BP reminded us of its continuous investment in UK arts institutions for 24 years and pledged to continue that involvement up to 2017.

Its £10 million ($16m) input will enable the Royal Opera House to put up 21 big screens around the country for free live relays of opera and ballet, Tate Britain to rehang its entire collection, the British Museum to stage a Vikings extravaganza and the National Portrait Gallery to continue its BP Portrait Awards.  ‘We deliver world class programmes to a global audience,’ said BP md, Iain Conn.

Nicholas Serota of the Tate admitted the Gallery had listened to green protests at BP’s pollution, but decided to take the money regardless. BP said it was proud to supply the world’s energy needs. Neil Macgregor of the BM called BP an ‘exemplary supporter of the arts’. Nobody mentioned Barack Obama. What’s he ever done for the arts?

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  • I am more interested to read specific criticisms on Obama and the arts, rather than insinuations. What could he do? To make a fair assessment you also have to look at the president’s constitutional limitations as well as the priorities of the Republican controlled House of Representatives.

    • Republicans only took control of the house in January, Petros. Obama had two full years to do all sorts of things when the democrats held both the house and the senate. I share your interest in reading more specific criticisms from Lebrecht regarding Obama’s supposed neglect of the arts, and specifically what Lebrecht would suggest he should have done differently, but I’m tired of seeing the Republican party blamed for the Obama administrations lack of action in so many areas (particularly their stunning inability to pass a budget) during the two years that they had full governmental control.

      • What the hell? If the article is about BP’s support of arts in the UK then why bring the US and its president into the story at all?

        And to what “xenophobic assaults” are you referring? It was an oil company and its feckless executive that we criticized, not its name or country of origin. Stick to music journalism and drop your clearly biased cheap-shot political commentary.

        • Eric: Obama repeatedly attacked British Petroleum, knowing that it is not the company’s name, nor has been for years. He did so to arouse xeonophobic feeling and left a strong impression in my country that he is anti- British. When Esso, Texaco and others have devastated the UK coastline, none of out politicians have attacked them as American companies – merely as bad traders. BP, as it happens, does much public good – some of it in the arts, where Obama promised much and delivered nothing. I have no vote in US politics but for me he is a cheap-shot politician, quick to blame others for his own failures. His anti-British bias will not be forgotten.

  • Seriously!?! I’m with Eric. BP are a bunch of do-gooders?? I’ve lived in the UK for over 10 years and I don’t know anyone who thinks Obama is anti-British. If you want anti-British sentiment just look to the EU.

  • BP, which is headquartered in London and shortened its name from “British Petroleum”, is not British? Who knew?

    President Obama was entirely in the right when he called them to account for their misdeeds.

  • What a bizarre article.

    Norman, you’ve heard of the culture wars, right? Those battles where the right wingers bash and exploit the arts for unrelated party political ends in order to rally their base, and try to destroy the vestiges of US federal government funding for good measure? A recent example: http://motherjones.com/mojo/2010/12/john-boehner-wojnarowicz-video.

    Upping the bizarre quotient is Norman’s assertion that Obama should be more like BP. I appreciate BP’s sponsorship of the arts, but let’s face facts, there are huge issues here. Just have a look at some of these comments: http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2011/dec/19/art-sponsorship-bp-tate?commentpage=all#start-of-comments.

    And as for what Obama has done for the arts, let me give you a recap:

    A few months after Obama took office, Congress voted in a $10m supplement to the NEA budget. In addition, a $50m allocation for the arts was included in his stimulus package, over vigorous Republican objections. Republican opposition has continued – some, including Mitt Romney, have called for slashing or zeroing out US government arts funding, and earlier this year the the Republican-led House Committee approved a $20m cut in the NEA budget (it appears to have ended up at a $10m cut, thanks to a fightback no doubt approved and supported by the Obama administration).

    The Obama administration has also made a reported $10 million of State Department funds available (up from $0 under Bush) to support cultural exchange – international tours by US dance companies and musicians, creating $1m worth of new commissions for US artists abroad, paying for bringing international musicians to the US. There is the potential for even more State Department money becoming available for the arts through new bi-lateral agreements that include cultural exchange components, such as the one recently announced with Brazil.

    When Obama appointed Rocco Landesman as the new Chairman of the NEA, Landesman wasted no time in gaining access to additional support for arts organizations and participation through a range of new partnerships (http://www.nea.gov/national/index.html). Yet the flagship initiative of this re-invigorated NEA, Our Town (designed to support “creative placemaking projects that contribute toward the livability of communities and help transform them into lively, beautiful, and sustainable places with the arts at their core”) was targeted for a 60% cut by the aforementioned Republican-led House Committee.

    Republicans have responded to increased access to power by consistently and shamelessly misrepresenting and exploiting the arts for unrelated political ends. Norman, if you want to pick a fight (another fight?) and you want to blame someone for the sorry state of US arts funding, let me give you a tip – Obama is not your man.

    • Our political spectrum is so narrow and oriented toward the right, that there is no effective political representation for public arts funding. The NEA’s budget was just reduced by 5.6% for next year, even though it comprises less than 1/7000th of the Federal budget. The 10M in State Department funds Kit mentions is 1/100,000th of the Federal Government’s budget.

      When was the last time you heard a president or senator gave a speech about public arts funding (other than to attack it?) When has either party created a substantial lobbying effort for public arts support? Nothing happens because it is for all practical purposes a non-issue across the entire political spectrum.

      When people claim the Democrats are working for public arts funding, they lend our political system an image of diversity it doesn’t really have. They thus perpetuate a harmful delusion that lulls people into thinking that they have a political alternative when they don’t. If we want to make progress, an important first step is to acknowledge that we have no effective political representation for public arts funding.

  • We will never have significant cultural funding from the federal level, lest people like former North Carolina senator Jesse Helms break into fits of demented yodeling about Yankee queers taking over the country.

    Almost all of the cultural funding in continental Europe comes from the government, but generally only about 10% from the Federal level. In Germany in 2006, for example, 9.2% came from the Feds, 37.3% from state governments, and 53.6% from counties and municipalities.

    See: http://www.miz.org/intern/uploads/statistik17.pdf

    The belief is that culture is by nature local, and that this should be reflected in how culture is funded. We Americans need to blow off the feds, who have shown themselves to be incompetent, and work toward local forms of public funding for the arts. Many challenges will be faced at the state and municipal levels too, so it would be a long-term project, but the problems with local funding are probably easier solved than the problems in Washington. There are quite of few cities and towns that could probably manage local arts funding and local cultural programs quite well. Unesco recommends that governments spend 1% of their resources on culture. A 1% local sales tax could raise billions for the arts across America.

          • True. So tell us about what the best balance might be. Why should Washington, for example, make decisions about arts funding in Wyoming or Arkansas? What ratio of the decisions should they make compared to the state and city governments?

          • ” Why should Washington, for example, make decisions about arts funding in Wyoming or Arkansas?”

            There’s a myth — promulgated by the right — that these decisions are made by bureaucrats. They’re not. They’re made by peer-review panels made up of artists, and audiences, from all over the country, and they fund arts that are of national significance.

            “What ratio of the decisions should they make compared to the state and city governments?”

            That’s up to the local governments. It’s up to them to decide how much they wish to fund.

  • There’s another question I’m wondering about. In his campaign platform, Obama said he would return the NEA’s funding to about 190 million (its previous high before the cuts caused by the cultural wars of the 90s.) Why didn’t he do that during the two years when the Democrats controlled both houses?

    • …Because they didn’t. They had a slight majority in the Senate, but it takes, in this political climate, a supermajority to get a bill to the floor, and Lieberman and Nelson often vote with the Republicans.

      • Some might see that as merely excuse-making. What evidence do we have that the NEA’s budget was important for Obama? How many speeches did Obama make about the arts and arts funding? How much did his staff work on the problem? If there were such insurmountable problems, why did he say in his platform he would raise the NEA budget to 190M?

        As for the other comment above, yes, the NEA selects peer review panels from around the country. If states or cities selected the panels, the membership would probably be much more local, and thus more informed about local artists and the needs and interests of local publics.

        • William,
          – What do you recommend that we US taxpayers do about arts funding, other than writing about it in Lebrecht’s blog? Sure we can write to our local reps, and I have no doubt we’ll receive a compassionate reply and that will be it. What else can we do? Is there any way to get organized? This is not a rhetorical question.
          – Your or Norman or anyone else can criticize the Obama administration all you want for their lack of support for the arts, but can you think of anyone in the next elections who might do better in that field? Perhaps Romney? Or Gingrich? (This probably is a rhetorical question, because we all know the answer.)

          • Petros,

            I’d recommend keeping your eye on this site:

            http://www.artsusa.org/get_involved/advocate.asp

            You can join their email list and get notified when they are issuing a new email/letter campaign.

            To answer your second point, I haven’t found anyone who would do better than Obama – as I’ve laid out in my post above, his multi-pronged approach has succeeded in sidestepping at least some of the formidable opposition he’s been up against in this area.

  • Petros, no, I can’t think of any politician who would do better in the next election. Obama isn’t going to do much either, in spite of the promises in his campaign. Nor is any other Democratic or Republican President. That’s why I say we shouldn’t count on the Federal government and move our focus to the local level. As has been famously observed, a politician is someone who can sit on the fence and still keep both ears to the ground. We the people will have to create the momentum then the politicians will follow – though a few exceptions might appear.

    What people can do depends on their gifts and circumstances. Public arts funding is so deeply suppressed in the USA that one of our first efforts has to be educational (and long-term.) The massive amount of misinformation and defamation about public arts funding needs to be countered.

    –People need to learn that the USA is the only developed country in the world without a comprehensive system of public arts funding.
    –They need to be aware of how ineffective our private funding system is by being presented with hard, statistical information about our lack of performing arts organizations per capita compared to the rest of the developed world.
    –They need to know that almost all countries administer their public arts funding programs at the state and municipal level.
    –They need to understand why local arts funding is more effective and stable than nationally oriented programs.
    –They need specific models that show them how public arts funding can be collected and administered locally.
    –And they need information that shows them the countless ways these funding programs will help their communities culturally, socially, economically, and politically.

    At this point, our focus should not be so much on politicians, but rather on journalists, since they are in the best position to help with this educational effort. I’ve noticed echoes of my efforts even here on ArtsJournal appearing in major media outlets, including the New York Times last summer. Just two days ago, Iowa Public Radio contacted me after our discussions about orchestras and opera houses per capita on another Slipped Disk blog entry. They are trying to prepare information about orchestras per capita in Iowa and want national and international comparisons. The articles on my website about arts funding receive about 400 unique visitors each month — a small number but it begins to add up. One of them was published on ArtsJournal where it had several thousand readers. We can slowly change the way people see things, which is the first step.

    One idea I have for organization might be called something like “A Penny for the Arts,” or “A Penny for Our Hometown.” As I mentioned previously, Unesco recommends that governments use 1% of their resources for culture. States and/or municipalities should be encouraged to establish something like a 1% sales tax for the arts which is then administered by them. We should also encourage the NEA to move its focus more strongly toward creating state and municipal arts funding programs. This could include special NEA grants to states and cities that establish “A Penny for our Hometown” programs. (The number could be flexible. Even a tenth of of penny would raise a lot of money.)

    This local orientation would also be valuable because local political systems are generally not as dysfunctional as our corrupt, grid-locked, lobbyist-ridden Federal government. Many communities still have “Main Street Republicans” –traditional conservatives who have collegial and neighborly relations with Democrats– who believe in the value of the arts and their communal support, and who put the well-being of their community before their party. They are willing to work together for the common good.

    Anyway, that’s something of the basic idea, though it would take a full article to outline it.

  • Two weeks ago Lebrecht chose to make fun of an eleven year old American girl and singer for selling a doll (one of a number of items including music she merchandises), a capitalist….O-my. Now you want more tax payer money to support your profitless endeavors managed by over payed incompetence with union cooperation.

    She is willing to soil her hands with work to earn her keep. Europe and America are broke borrowing and wasting tax payer money on causes supported by the elitists who know how to better spend our money. Organizations that do not earn their keep, but take from the tax paying citizens, must support communism/socialism to survive.

    I grew up with classical music and opera; it is my go to music but, I will not donate to any organization that takes tax payer money directly or indirectly.

    The Euro will probably collapse in the the first half of next year…America may not be to far behind since we have chosen European style socialism and is broke. I would suggest engaging is some capitalism and providing what people want instead of what you think they should have.

      • It’s interesting to see the talk about communism. To paraphrase Clausewitz, our decimated NEA budget is the continuation of McCarthyism by other means.

        The US military budget is over 4000 times higher than the budget for the NEA. Every man, woman, and child in America pays over $2200 for the military per year. For a family of four, that’s $8800 a year. Our military budget is larger than all the rest of the world’s put together.

        The USA pays more for military bands (170M) than it does for the NEA (140M.) I think that says something about our society.

        • Not sure that I get the Clausewitz line as I believe he died long before McCarthyism. Progressiveness and McCarthyism seem to have a lot of similarities.

          I have little respect for either side of the aisle but “generally”, when the right dislikes something, they defund it. When the left dislikes something, they censure it and make it a crime against the state.

          The establishment of a military is a constitutional requirement, funding the arts (among other things) is not.

          I can’t comment on unsourced numbers but agree with the gist.

          How much of that military budget is not wanted by the military?

          Our politicians (on both sides) hold the budgets of most of our government departments hostage to pet projects, social agendas and slush funds. The military is forced to operate bases and purchase weapon systems it does not want. It pays for studies, research, college programs including arts, museums and a huge list of non military items thrown into the military budget by our honorable politicians. A chunk of their budget is turned over to other departments and agencies, some of which is for their support of the military, much is not. Other government departments place ridiculous and wildly expensive requirements on our military that add to its operational costs. Our politicians also use the military in areas we have no business. The administrations fails to have a comprehensive defense strategy; increasing costs. We also can’t seem to bring our personnel home after the fight is over.

          And yes there is waste.

          I want a strong and wisely run military that can deter, protect and project when necessary, but not be used as world cops. Without a comprehensive defense strategy the danger can outweigh the benefits. Freedom is not a gift, it comes with a rather large price tag, either in dollars or in blood and a lot more dollars.

          Scheming for more taxpayer funds while suffering staggering debt does not support the arts the military or the citizens in the long run.

          All the best and to your love ones in the coming year.

          • The USA is the only developed country in the world without a comprehensive system of public arts support. These countries include all 27 EU members which are democracies. They are not exploitive and they do not censure the arts. They just have much richer cultural lives, in large part due to their much better funding system. In the USA, the right does not like the politically progressive stance of most artists and arts organizations, so they defund the arts in general to suppress the viewpoints they often reflect. The USA suffers more cenorship and the suppression of thought than the EU countries.

          • Not funding is not censorship…they just can’t use public money…big big difference.

            [The USA suffers more cenorship and the suppression of thought than the EU countries.]

            US campuses and professors who worship freedom of speech when they agree with it, regularly disrupt the freedom of speech or flat out prevent any conservative views on their campuses but give full support to terrorists who wish to speak. The current administration has or is in the process of attempting numerous attacks on the free speak of political groups and web sites 90 days prior to an election and has tried to shut down news agencies and personalities they doe not like. A new McCarthyism exists in Hollywood and the motto is conservatives need not apply. We have former and current members of our government that state; Those that challenge the notion of global warming should be tried for crimes against humanity and executed. We have talk show hosts and networks that believe it is ok to gang rape an underage child because the don’t care for her mothers politics.

            Yes there is censorship and intimidation. Is this what you meant?

          • Michael, history illustrates that the suppression of the arts through the denial of funding is a common practice. Upon taking power, Hitler and Stalin both systematically eliminated funding for all artists and arts institutions that questioned their policies. They were, in effect, internally banished. In the end, a general suspicion of artists evolved that led to the suppression of the arts in general.

            Something similar began to evolve in the USA during the cold war. The US government was alarmed by what they perceived as the leftward tendencies of American artists. One response was that the CIA formed a front organization called the Congress for Cultural Freedom that provided a great deal of secret funding for art the CIA felt appropriate. In the visual arts, for example, abstract expressionism received massive amounts of secret funding, exactly because its non-political nature could serve as a riposte to East Block Social Realism. In short, the US government didn’t want artists to to create works encompassing social criticism.

            To ensure the advancement of abstract expressionism, the CIA also infiltrated the boards of major cultural institutions such as MOMA, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Ford Foundation. This large-scale, clandestine influence and funding strongly affected the history of post-war art in the USA and Western Europe. (For more information see Francis Stoner’s book, “The CIA and the Cultural Cold War,” which I highly recommend.)

            Since governments inevitably try to control the arts, it is best to establish funding programs the are open, transparent, and overseen by local governments at the state and municipal levels. Nationally centralized funding systems are extremely dangerous because they are highly prone to manipulation and abuse. Funding decisions should be made by a combination of peers in the arts world and locally elected officials. Otherwise, the government’s influence –even when presumably not funding the arts– will become secretive and partisan, exactly as we saw during the cold war. We see that open, local public funding systems help prevent government abuse because it is much easier to oversee.

            Most every cultured person, of course, has noted the lack of rightwing thought in the arts in America – though notable exceptions exist in Hollywood. One reason is that the USA defines the rightwing extreme among all developed countries. We are, for example, the only developed country with the death penalty, the only one with such massive military spending, and the only one whose government is so strongly influenced by corporate lobbyists. Not surprisingly, we are also the only developed country without national health insurance, or comprehensive systems of public arts funding.

            Most artists are usually well-educated and rather cosmopolitan in their perspectives. They tend to center their political views along international norms rather than toward the more limited and parochial spectrum of the US political establishment. For this reason, it will be difficult to establish an effective public funding system in the USA until our often rather extreme political spectrum moves toward the more moderate norms of the rest of the developed world. Extremist governments seldom favor the social commentary of artists. With its extreme concepts of unmitigated capitalism, militarism, and narrow political spectrum, the USA is becoming, rightly or wrongly, exactly such a country in the eyes of the international community.

      • I perceive that name calling and berating is your go to genre. … I prefer discussion.

        I agree, profitless is not necessarily bad. Forcibly taking other peoples money for such endeavors is. In the past, charities had to actively raise the money they wished to use. They found that it required work to convince folks of their cause and found it much easier to force the citizens to pay.

        Ayn grew up in a stateist culture and has a first hand knowledge of its destruction of the human spirit and the murder of millions of people. I can certainly understand her hatred of the people who did this.

        Is your company profitless?

        • …And claiming that requiring people to, in the form of taxes, pay the “price for living in a civilized society” is “forcibly taking other peoples money” is insane.

          …And that’s not name-calling; it’s merely reporting.

          • […And that’s not name-calling; it’s merely reporting.]
            Reporting is rarely truthful, complete or accurate. The musicians, stage workers, carpenters, electricians etc no longer unionized? A simple I-net search says differently and indicates a lot of fighting going on. An article, earlier this year indicated that the most coveted union jobs in NY are are at one of the houses.

            […And claiming that requiring people to, in the form of taxes, pay the “price for living in a civilized society” is “forcibly taking other peoples money” is insane.]

            So I am now insane….

            I understand your defense as the more gov. money that flows to the arts, the more that flows to your business.

            You might have to define “civilized society” for me. The USSR and China are/were civilized societies that strongly support the arts yet allowed and approved the starvation of more than 50 million people and the murder of at least that many. In fact, the arts are most supported (and censured) by such governments and other such entities to prove their goodness.

            It is insane when we have burdened our children’s grandchildren with our drunken spending and continue to scheme to put them further in debt.

            I know we will never agree on this topic but in other areas of this site we are in complete or at least partial agreement. It has been interesting ; I look forward to bumping into you again.

            All the best to you and those you love for the holidays and the coming year.

          • When Mr. Justice Holmes wrote in 1927 that “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society,” government at all levels in the United States took up a little more than 11% of GDP. It now consumes over 40%.

        • This is the same kind of thinking that would have had the Roosevelts and Carnegies of the world reinvest their fortunes instead of sponsoring museums, theaters, libraries, education foundations and the like.

          Where would this “11 year old girl” have been exposed to any classical-oriented music if it weren’t for these “profitless” organizations? I am, surprisingly, aware that Phantom was the spark. So tell me where Lord Lloyd Webber would have been exposed to Puccini, et al were it not for these “profitless” entities? Where would O Mio Babbino Caro have become known?

          Moreover, you seem to misunderstand what it means to be “non-profit” and the extent of so-called government support. Most arts organizations receive local and state funding of the low single digits, if any. This pales in comparison to the tax breaks given to GM or Bank of America. These arts organizations employ 100s of thousands, and a good many do not run deficits – they balance their budgets. A number also provide local educational services free of charge.

          Michael’s kind of thinking is frightening in its short-shortsightedness and exists absolutely nowhere else in the “civilized” world, whether it be in North America, Europe, certain Middle Eastern countries, Asia, etc….

          Throughout time, philosophers, leaders and activists all have campaigned for arts support – because it is music, theater, painting and the rest that unites all humanity and lifts our spirits in dire times – while bombs do not. (I am not a dove; I believe in a strong, well-funded military, but I don’t believe in supplying the pentagon with billions of dollars of planes they didn’t ask for – look it up – or military installments they agreed could be closed.)

          • Thank you, you made my case about private funding. These capitalists throughout our history have used their fortunes to better our society in many ways. The latest are the Gates and Buffets, but there are many more. Few know that many of our parks, reserves, and reserves, specially in NY were purchase and given to the states to protect these beautiful lands because these industrialists were realist and could see what would be lost.

            I want the arts to continue, we disagree with how to fund them. The society for preserving historical land marks and building was once government subsidized. It is now wholly private, receives no government funds and is much more successful in its mission. This is what I want for the arts…to be free of government/political influence especially, I do not wish to add to our staggering debt.

            If you read an earlier post in this blog, (December 25, 2011 at 10:48 pm) you will find we are in agreament about other spending (miltary).

            And we agree, the bailouts should not have taken place…The private sector would have had GM back on its feet in six months or a year…Look at the airlines. If Freddy and Fannie and other programs did not exist but left to the private sector, our finances would be much better.

          • Wonderful that we agree so much. I still do believe, however, that you are under some impression that the government funds and influences all arts. That is simply untrue. It it also untrue that all government funding and non-profit organizations are bad.

            I appreciate your newly acquired friendly tone that shows some support for something done by the government. These earlier comments in your first post, I suspect, contain your true sentiments:

            “O-my. Now you want more tax payer money to support your profitless endeavors managed by over payed incompetence with union cooperation.

            I grew up with classical music and opera; it is my go to music but, I will not donate to any organization that takes tax payer money directly or indirectly.”

          • [Where would this “11 year old girl” have been exposed to any classical-oriented music if it weren’t for these “profitless” organizations? I am, surprisingly, aware that Phantom was the spark. So tell me where Lord Lloyd Webber would have been exposed to Puccini, et al were it not for these “profitless” entities? Where would O Mio Babbino Caro have become known?]

            I had to do a little research on the girl as you know more about her than I do. My knowledge was a PBS show, a few internet searches to view a BIO and a few news/trade articles.

            Your comment opens the world of infinite variables that I cannot answer. What I find most important was that her parents took her to this show at the age of seven and recognized a spark had ignited and then supported her. My parents did the same for us. Summer shows at the Interlochen Center for the Arts, Fantasia, Ice-capades and so many different and varied shows, situations and experiences. They were providing exposure and looking for sparks or passion.

            What disgusted me was the mockery of her because of something she sells to make money by some on this blog and two weeks later, want more of her tax money for themselves. That is a truly arrogant and elitist attitude toward the ones footing the bill and that is what raise my ire.

  • [Reporting is rarely truthful, complete or accurate]

    That depends. Most of us don’t define “truth” as “that which right-wingers wish were so”.

    [The musicians, stage workers, carpenters, electricians etc no longer unionized?]

    In the US, musicians are, indeed unionized. Stagehands, not nearly so much.

  • @ Michael

    Confused as to why you have chosen to make the points you are making on this particular blog.

    To my knowledge, Gates and Buffet do not give significant amounts to non-profit arts organizations.

    Societies for protecting historical landmarks work in quite different ways and have quite different needs than the arts organizations discussed on this blog. For example, unions have been mentioned – these are not an issue for the former.

    Also, I don’t believe that government/political interference is much of an issue in the arts in the US (nor do I know of a time when it has ever been). If you asked arts organizations what the problem is, I suspect the majority would say that there should be more government funds to go around.

    If you are looking for places to reduce our staggering debt, the arts is the wrong place to look. In the bigger scale of things, the amounts of money we are talking about are miniscule. That said, the arts are a much better investment than you appear to be aware of, even considering the tiny amount of money involved. The arts generate a range of economic activity in a way no other sector of the economy can. There are many studies out there which you can find with a simple search which detail the outsize economic impact of investment in the arts.

    Finally, government support is particularly effective in covering essential arts activity that private support does not. This can loosely be characterized as the R&D side. The importance of this area of the arts ecology is at best only partially understood by the majority of private funders, and those who do get it tend to be overwhelmed by the demand for funds.

    • (I should say government/political interference is not much of an issue with respect to the US government using arts funding as a means to advance party political goals, as presumably was Michael’s point in evoking China and the USSR – as we have seen in the Hide/Seek controversy and the NEA Four, political interference of the culture wars variety definitely continues to be an issue)

  • Jeffery, the only way we could be fair in concentrating funding on what is “liked” is if the decisions are made at municipal or county levels. It is then more probable that there would be some sort of community census on what is likeable in art. It is also important the membership of the evaluation panels be regularly rotated to provide a variety of views reflecting a wide spectrum of the community. It is exactly art that is disliked at first that sometimes turns out to be the most valuable in the long term. Funders should always understand the value and meaning of marginal voices in the arts.

    • Much more money is allocated at the local level than is allocated at the Federal level (although this is largely because the federal government has been criminally parsimonious), and every agency with whose process I have been associated (one municipal and three state) *does* rotate the membership.

      Your position seems largely to be based on false assumptions.

      • Yes, local funding adds up to more than the NEA (never said it didn’t,) but the sums of our local funding are only a tiny fraction of international norms. And most communities do not have very much local funding at all. Sometimes none. We still need to stress the importance of local public funding. And I merely stressed that jury memberships should rotate for the sake of Michael’s understanding. I didn’t say they weren’t. I’m not sure, but you seem to have an oppositional mindset that causes you to sometimes unnecessarily misread or misinterpret posts. Hardly matters though since this discussion has probably reached the point of diminishing returns.

        • To add some concrete info here, the per capita average for state arts funding in the USA is $1.35 and for the NEA about 50 cents. See:

          http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2009/02/california-last.html

          The US total per capita for public funding thus comes to about $1.85 which on average is about a fiftieth to a hundreth of the norms for developed countries with similar per capita GDPs. It is less than 1/200th of Norway’s, the European leader. For documentation of EU sums, google “council of europe cultural funding” and click on the second listing. (If I list the URL my post will be blocked because I’ve posted it before.)

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