I've been sitting back and watching the discussion between Mike Boehm and Jeff Croff in the comment trail of my entry last week, in part because I haven't wanted to interrupt an interesting dialog between the two.
I'm definitely a fence-sitter on this issue. I would love to see more public support and funding for the arts. I firmly believe that, like education, the benefits of the arts accrue to more than just the consumer of art (and I use consumer in a broad sense to mean not just the purchaser of a piece of art or a ticket, but anyone who experiences art in its many forms). I think the arts make our community and our world a better place to live in. They have the ability to instill us with hope and optimism or at least to give people an outlet to express their frustrations and cynicism with the reassurance that they're being heard.
However, I also believe that many artists have hurt the cause of public funding by being overly demanding and refusing to look at things realistically.
Last year, arts funding in our state was frozen. We were going through a budget crisis of epic proportions--one that resulted this past week in an increased income tax and expanded sales tax. We've had to do this because of fiscally irresponsible policies throughout the nineties where the state privatized those businesses that made money and refused to institute responsible tax policies because they needed their soundbite for campaigning. Ah, but I wander off into the political in a non-arts related way. Let me get back on track.
People were outraged that money was cut and rallied at the Capitol demanding not only that the arts money be unfrozen (it eventually was at about 75% of original levels) but that the funding be restored to levels that they were in past decades.
As much as I'm a supporter of the arts and in paying taxes to support the arts, that demand tasted sour in my mouth. What they seemed to be saying was that the arts were more important than human services, education, and public safety. The state was talking about shutting down entirely and the artists were demanding that they receive an increase in funding rather than joining in the conversation about how where they could make sacrifices without committing suicide. It was a loss of credibility.
When there are tough economic times, artists need to be realistic and accept that there isn't money to be had. They will have a tough time winning supporters if they claim that funding their season is more important than keeping the schools open or paying for a firefighter or keeping the ambulances running.
The flip side, though, is that when money is available, the arts need to be recognized as important to the quality of life of a community. Once you get past the minimum levels on Maslow's hierarchy of needs, it's going to be the arts that let your citizens climb from safety to belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.
Bloggers We Love
Bridgette Redman and Lansing Theater
Drew McManus' "Neo Classical" at the Partial Observer
Marc Moss (Missoula, MT artist)
Mary Louise Schumacher's "Art City"
Other Great Sites
American Composers Orchestra
Arts & Letters Daily
Center for Arts and Culture
Cultural Policy and the Arts National Data Archive
National Arts Journalism Program
NEA Arts Journalism Institute for Dance Criticism
NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Classical Music and Opera
NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Theater & Musical Theater
New Music Box: American Music Center
USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Program
AJ BlogsAJBlogCentral | rss
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
rock culture approximately
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
No genre is the new genre
David Jays on theatre and dance
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
John Rockwell on the arts
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Martha Bayles on Film...
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds
Jerome Weeks on Books
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world
Public Art, Public Space
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog