Arts Funding in the UK, Minimalism in LA and Crash in New Jersey

WHY do folks in much of the rest of the post-industrial world – not just Europe but Canada and Australia and elsewhere – feel so much less anxiety about state funding of culture? I have my theories – some of which I explore in my book – but the issue continues to baffle me. Turns out that in the UK – a nation both very similar and very different from the US – the majority of the population thinks that funding is not nearly high enough.

That’s the conclusion of a new study of almost 1,000 Brits reported in The Stage. “According to the results of a new survey – jointly commissioned by The Stage – 63% of residents in the UK want to see their local council budgeting at least 50p per person every week on arts, museums and heritage.”

Many parts of Britain, it turns out, devote less than a single pence per citizen to culture funding. I may not have to point out to ArtsJournal readers that the recent budget proposed by Sen. Paul Ryan takes a scalpel to the NEA and NEH budget. He’s said recently that the arts are only enjoyed by the rich, leaning on the old “cultural elite” argument. I can guarantee you that not all conservatives or Republicans are so hostile to public support of the arts.

ALSO: One of the youngish artists around LA who gives me hope for the future of classical music is Yuval Sharon, a founder of the group The Industry and instigator of the experimental operas Crescent City and Invisible Cities. The latter, especially, is among the most challenging and successful work I’ve seen in years.

The Industry’s latest project is an eccentric performance (is there any other kind?) of Terry Riley’s In C – perhaps the founding document of musical minimalism, at the Hammer Museum.

From "In C"; courtesy The Hammer

From “In C”; courtesy The Hammer

This extends a strong record by the Hammer of risky, free public performances. In C – which goes on this Saturday and next – comes amidst the LA Philharmonic’s Minimalist Jukebox festival, which I’ll try to track on this page.

FINALLY: I keep hearing from optimists that the worst is over in terms of job losses in journalism. But the Newark Star-Ledger – the strongest paper in a state with both a strong arts tradition and a deep culture of corruption – has announced it will slash a quarter of its (non-unionized) newsroom. This is the paper, after all, that broke the Chris Christie bridge scandal.

The cuts will mean the loss of 40 of the 156 reporters, editors, photographers and support staff in The Star-Ledger newsroom, which had already seen a parade of people leaving in recent weeks over concerns about the paper’s future and the continuing fiscal pressures affecting newspapers across the country.

Here‘s some recent bad news from arts journalism in Oregon, a beautiful state where another paper laid off two of my favorite journos.

The journalists there, and elsewhere, deserve better.

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  1. says

    I think national, centralized arts funding is troubling, and arts funding should be localized. At worst, national funds should be given directly to the states for each state to decide who gets the funding. That way, San Francisco can be San Francisco and Little Rock can be Little Rock. It would be good for arts diversity and would help de-politicize the process.

    That said, the Eddie Munster of Washington has a good point … low income people have little exposure to what we think of as the arts, since they tend to attend crappy schools and have over-worked parents. Arts may trend further and further toward the ruling class, and everyone else will get TV karaoke shows. Sadly, funding for day care is a much more acute need than funding for experimental music. If we simply taxed the rich people who own the arts, there would be public funding to share those very arts.

  2. says

    Milton makes some interesting point, but it’s simply not true — as a previous post and a recent study shows — that arts funding only benefits the rich.

    And re local arts funding: That argument has been made quite eloquently on this blog’s comments by William Osborne. Other correspondents have described the pros an cons of that point of view.

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