Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cultural Equity: In Search of an Equal Playing Field in Arts Funding, Open Thread

In a post on Political Correctness recently, I noted I believe that for the playing field to be truly equal the practice of political correctness needs to end. I focused specifically on the social interactions aspect of PC-dom, what I consider pseudo-politeness, but there's another side to it as well, a side that approximates Affirmative Action. We see that practice reflected in the debate about how best to dole out available public funding for the arts.

A difference of opinion on whether that practice is appropriate is playing itself out in New York City at the moment, as reported by the New York Times:
[A] coalition of arts organizations in New York City called the Cultural Equity Group [proposed] to city officials [that] $15 million in the city budget ... go to so-called culturally specific organizations, serving blacks, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and American Indians. The money — to be used for things like programs and administrative support — would be separate from financing awarded by city agencies, like the Cultural Affairs Department.

That agency’s grant panels do not use culturally specific criteria when awarding money. For fiscal year 2009, which began July 1, the panels awarded 862 program grants, a total of $26.5 million. According to the department, organizations that said in their mission statements that they explicitly served “a community of color” accounted for 22 percent of the applicant pool and received 22 percent of the dollars.


“The competition for funding does not take into account the issues of the communities we serve — the soaring high school dropout rate, the foster care kids, the people facing re-entry from prison,” said Laurie A. Cumbo, another Cultural Equity Group leader.


Still, the Cultural Equity Group’s quest has reignited a lively debate in the arts world about just what cultural equity means.

Kate D. Levin, the cultural affairs commissioner, said that in her agency’s experience a group’s mission statement — as opposed to leaders, staff and board — most reliably captures what it does and who it serves.

“Our new funding process supports 25 percent more groups with significantly more dollars than in the past,” she said. “We’ve opened up a system that was previously unresponsive to need or demand, and we’re more equitable and transparent than ever before. Naturally anytime there’s change, there’s a debate."

As I had noted in the previous post, I feel that the notion that some sunny day everyone will like or accept (or even appreciate) the differences of everyone else is an unrealistic goal. The most practical thing you can work toward is equal opportunity.

Still, I understand that all else being equal, some arts organizations will go under. And I understand that some arts organizations are still truly at a disadvantage socially:
At a recent meeting [Cultural Equity Group] members spoke of the difficulty of luring minority board members from elite organizations, securing bank loans in struggling neighborhoods and encouraging poor people to donate money to support the arts. Even success can hurt these centers, as the artists they have helped start go to bigger, wealthier places. At times, group members said, they had to cut back on programming or hours of operation, and staff members often do without things like health insurance.
I'll admit to thinking sometimes that Darwin was right. The strongest survive. That's just how it is. And that's perhaps not fair, but what's fairness got to do with it? Then I stop to think that the arts are supposed to reflect our best selves. Not our most Machiavellian selves. Not our most Darwinian selves. But the very best that we can be.

Perhaps that's too romantic a notion. Perhaps even in the arts, only the strongest should survive. Some seem to suggest that's the case:
Government and foundation support dries up in tough times, [Michael M. Kaiser, the president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington] said, so turning to the city is not as useful a long-term strategy as gaining development expertise.

“I am talking about good marketing skills, getting people excited about your work, a disciplined fund-raising,” he said.
It's hard to argue with that. But even the examples of success in doing so that one could point to had a bit of fortune on their side:
What is a level playing field?” asked Patricia Cruz, executive director of Harlem Stage. “All arts organizations are in trouble now. This issue needs to be quantified: How many organizations run by or serving people of color are out there and how many have perished? We feel it in terms of the organizations that are struggling so intensely, but if a fact-based analysis finds what people know intuitively, then you can address this.”

Ms. Cruz said she thought the Cultural Affairs Department had done a good job in reaching out to all kinds of groups and making its financing process more transparent.

“The Cultural Equity Group is doing exactly what we did 30 years ago,” said Mary Schmidt Campbell, chairwoman of the New York State Council on the Arts. Ms. Campbell was the executive director of the Studio Museum in Harlem from 1977 to 1987 and served as the New York City cultural affairs commissioner from 1987 to 1991. She recalled how demands for more diversity led to city governments, foundations and corporations providing dollars and technical assistance for nonwhite cultural organizations.

That support helped establish places like the Studio Museum in Harlem and El Museo del Barrio, now two examples of elite, robust institutions, Ms. Campbell said.
Indeed, in the case of the Studio Museum in Harlem and El Museo del Barrio, I assume the fortune that helped them become the stellar institutions they are today includes a good deal of hard, smart work, but also the fact that they represent minorities with large populations in New York and that they were able to remain in operation long enough to see their hard work eventually coincide with economic prosperity. For some other arts organizations, with smaller pools of potential supporters and the misfortune of existing in tougher times, even those organizations' paths to success may not be probable. Do we just let Darwinism run its course in such cases?
For now, the clock is ticking in places like Brownsville, East New York and Crown Heights in Brooklyn, [Laurie A.] Cumbo, of the African Diasporan arts museum, said.

“There’s no cultural outlet or release for the young people in these communities,” she said. “Get off the corners and go where? Get off the corners and do what?”
Consider this an open thread on arts funding and equal opportunity.

Labels: equal oppportunity, open thread


Blogger kalm james said...

Better get out the whip and chair, or maybe the hammer and tongs for this one Ed.

There is not now, nor has there ever been, a “level playing field”, in the art world or anywhere else. While it might flatter the people who spout this pabulum, it’s utopianist BS.

This type of “cultural engineering” despite its “good intentions” is more about sustaining the bureaucratic apparatus than generating the production of relevant art work. To imply that these programs will eliminate the Darwinian or “survival of the fittest” drives that shape our world is a mistake. You simply end up replacing one source of sustenance with another bureaucratically controlled one. Energy and talent that should be focused on creating art is instead focused on the procurement of grants (perhaps a new art form?). I don’t know about you but I’ve rarely seen interesting or profound art produced for the enrichment of bureaucrats.

Paradoxically, the uppy-crusty art scene has got to be one of the whitest, effetest and homogenous social cliques in society, and I’m at a loss as to cracking that world and letting in the diverse voices we’d all like to be exposed to.

Give he a hefty grant, and I could change my mind.

7/24/2008 10:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

The strongest survive, but the two greatest strengths you can have as a species are the abilities to cooperate and to exploit resources sustainably. Humans are not physically strong as mammals of our size go: no natural armor, no impressive bodily weaponry, pathetic mobility (you can be outrun by a schnauzer), and prolonged childhoods. Instead we had amazing sociability and tool-making prowess. By the time we developed language and farming we were pretty much unstoppable. This is true across species: the reason the cold is common and ebola is not is because the former does not make a habit of shredding its host. Our Darwinian self actually is our finest self, the self that acknowledges that death, catastrophe, and conflict are inevitable but survival in any meaningful sense requires that we think about collective good and works that last beyond individual lifetimes.

The simple solution to the problems described above is to stop providing state funding to the arts, reduce taxation proportionately, and allowing people to discriminate to their hearts' content. The last item enables them to form private organizations to entertain these race-based, ad misericordiam arguments for arts funding, which can then be administered in a manner that reflects fiscal reality and the shared cultural energies of like-minded people. With the current system, you have to pretend in equality of outcomes, which requires heinous acts of social engineering and a lot of pretending. (Or if you prefer, "a lively debate in the arts world about just what cultural equity means," which you can bet will fail to produce a universally acceptable definition.) Wishing that arts groups would be spared the vicissitudes of the economy is a bit like asking farmers to be spared the vicissitudes of weather. Good farming accounts for bad weather.

7/24/2008 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

"Then I stop to think that the arts are supposed to reflect our best selves. Not our most Machiavellian selves. Not our most Darwinian selves. But the very best that we can be."

Quelle irony! Truly delicious. from whence did this Victorian sensibility spring?

Is not art so often more enabling than ennobling?

Shall we Dawrwinists take down the landed gentry with their soft ways?

Oh yes, art panders to the very best!

7/24/2008 01:07:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

from whence did this Victorian sensibility spring?

From the cherry orchard, I would guess, Zippy. At least that's the metaphor most apt to reflect how you've hand-picked a phrase out of context to then run a muck (a mock) with. Not that I should expect much more than mockery from you, but you sometimes manage to attain a higher achievement. Sometimes.

The notion was but one side of thinking on the issue, not a unified theory. If you feel it's no longer even partially valid, perhaps you could explain straight prose, that is.

7/24/2008 03:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

This was discussed at length at Artblog a month or so ago (where half my comments were erased and banned).

Having opinions about this issue is nice. I say, let the people vote. Let the process remain democratic. I very doubt that people will want a cancellation on government art fundings. Did someone mention anything about humans being a social being?

My opinion is you will get a wider variety of art if you have a wider variety of means to produce it. That's how much art is dependant on the economical regime within which it is produced.



7/24/2008 07:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here in LA the city has grants it gives out to artists each year. These grants are supposed to be about merit but they apparently are divvied up according to the various neighborhoods in the city. If most artists live in X, Y and Z neighborhoods, only a limited number will be considered for the grant. Artists living in A, B and C neighborhoods have a greater likelihood of receiving a grant. While this may be "fair", the result is that the annual show of the grant recipients is consistently underwhelming.

I also think that as long as art has to prove to the community that it has value, it will be seen as an educational tool only. Teaching children to be creative via the arts may keep them off the corners short term, but we all know precious few artists make a decent living. Pretending it is otherwise is just naive. Enrichment is good but it shouldn't be confused with a viable career strategy.

7/24/2008 09:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

...(where half my comments were erased and banned).


7/24/2008 10:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric said...

Deservedly, indeed. I deserve less waste of my time. Have a nice summer.


7/24/2008 11:35:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

I’m working under a studio deadline these days, so my response will be short, but I couldn’t let Franklin’s comment go.

. The US Government has spent BILLIONS of dollars fighting two recent wars (in a long string of) and looking for terrorists in the wrong places

. The US government gives huge grants to corporations and wealthy people in the form of tax breaks

. The US government supports farmers, tobacco and banks

If arts organizations and individual artists got ONE PERCENT--no, even half of one percent--of the billions the government spends elsewhere, creative communities everywhere would be rolling in dough. Everyone could be served: organizations that serve kids, college students, regular folks who wish to enrich their lives with art, AND actual artists for whom grants would provide a huge boost.

I mean, if a farmer can be paid to not grow crops, artists can be paid to actually make art. Let's stop thinking we don't deserve to be funded.

In early 2001 I was in Havana and had the opportunity to visit a number of communities--very poor communities. In each one, the local artists and their artwork were introduced with pride. "This is our artist," people said. They made sure their artist had materials and ad a place to work. Now these are people with an annual income of about $200. Each month the govermnent issues each person six pounds of rice, a few pounds of beans and coffee, and some flour. They depend on visitors to bring them supplies like Advil, soap, tampons, bandaids and condoms. But they made sure their artists were able to make art, because it was as important as food.

7/25/2008 01:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

For the record, I completely agree with Joanne. State-level funding of arts groups is beans compared to the expenditures on corporate welfare and our nation's military misadventures. If we assume that we will always have bad government, then we might as well throw a couple of zeroes onto whatever amount we currently give to artists. The money won't be any worse spent.

Whatever my feelings about arts funding, I have even stronger enthusiasm for an immediate pullout from Iraq (timetable? We should be arguing over whether it ought to be tomorrow or the day after), and an abolition of all forms of corporate welfare including the aid we give to farmers. (Paying them not to grow food is the tip of the iceberg. I refer you to the works of Wendell Berry.)

Furthermore, in the above article Laurie Cumbo talks about high-school dropout rates among minorities, people getting out of prision, and getting kids off of corners. Public education in this country is a Soviet-style failure of centralized bureaucratic control, a quarter of state and half of federal prison populations are there for drug offenses (and a large portion of the remainder were tied up with the drug trade as well), and the economy has been taken down by federal-level manipulation that certain people have been decrying for years. So we could give more money to Ms. Cumbo for her museum and it would benefit a handful of people, mostly Ms. Cumbo, or we could return schooling to individual control, legalize drugs, and get the government out of the economy, potentially helping everyone. Then you could reduce taxes accordingly and let people support the arts as they see fit.

(You should also be able to travel to Cuba at your pleasure, but that's a separate discussion.)

7/25/2008 10:36:00 AM  
Blogger kalm james said...

Since when was art democratic? In my experience one sure-fired way to guarantee crappy art is to have it dictated by a committee.

There are no provisions in the American Constitution for the care and nurturing of “artists”, as there are for national defense, free speech and the right to bear (bare) arms.

For those of you worried about expenditures on “the War”, I’ll use the conceptual gambit (barrowed from Duchamp) of merely identifying “the War” as a work of art. There, it might be bad art but… Happy? Conceptualists?

Joanne, as wonderful as the life of an artist in Cuba might appear, for obvious reasons you’ve decided to remain in the belly of the beast, rather that immigrate to the “workers paradise”. Anyone out there who’d give up the anxiety and struggle to go live in Cuba?

Pardon me, but I’ve always had suspicions about “government supported” art and artists. I believe that for many artists there’s an obligation to challenge accepted wisdom, to tilt at the norms, to point out the way things are, and provide a viable direction to something different (maybe better, maybe not). In short, the artist is a subversive individual, the most dangerous thing any institutionalized system can face.

Just my opinion.

7/25/2008 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Government supported art is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it tends to be safer than non-government supported art politically (artists, like every other being, not always willing to bite the hand that feeds them) and it perpetuates lazy practice in many cases, IMHO.

On the other hand, as Joanne point out, it can help create a sense among a people that art is a valued part of their existence.

Having said that, some cultures value art without their tax money supporting it much...but in places, like the US, where a disappointing number of people don't seem to care a toss about our country's art (and whether or not that's because it speaks to them personally doesn't seem to stop folks from supporting it in other countries, so I'm not convinced by that argument) it might not hurt for the leaders to suggest it's OK to value your country's art.

7/25/2008 11:36:00 AM  
Blogger lookinaroundbob said...

The "art" that the Cuban artists create is consumed by the people in the poor communities that supports them. The people in poor communities in this country choose what little they consume from TV and purchase it from Target or K Mart. This is a cultural difference, created by the consumerist frenzy that is our country.
Government support of the Arts would mostly lead to bad, politically motivated decision making much like what goes on with our military.

7/25/2008 12:27:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

Turning art into a governmental program to project a positive nationalistic image might give you good propaganda, but isn’t going to give you good art. Dave Hickey has said “Americans don’t like art. Get use to it”.

For those whom art is important, governmental action is meaningless (unless they can suck the teet). To those who don’t care, it’s similar to government imposed morality.

“Guberment” money is seductive, but if you take the king’s money, you’re doing the king’s bidding.

7/25/2008 01:44:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

James, I'm not suggesting we go live in Cuba; just that even in an unbelievably poor country people value art. (And by the way, their subsidized health care means that folks seem to be in pretty good health and, surprisingly, everyone seems to have not only retained their teeth but to have pretty good teeth.)

One other thing about subsidies. You notice that sports stadiums always seem to get funded or supported in some way by the city or state government. Steinbrenner is a wealthy guy running a private enterprise, but isn't the city helping out with the new stadium? (I don't watch the sports news, but this information seems to have filtered into my head. It's too far-fetched for me to make up.) And I'll bet the city helps out with Fashion week, too--if not with actual funding, with extra police detail and other costs to the city.

Art should get at least that kind of support. Wouldn't it be nice to have more subsidized studio space? James, I don't care if the art that's made is "crappy" or not--that's a relative judgment. There are plenty of ballplayers (who are making MILLIONS) who play crappy ball; and fashion designers who create crappy fashions. If artists can get subsidized, I'm all for equal-opportunity crappiness, because good things as well as crap can come out of financial support.

BTW, apologies for my typos. I'm a crappy typist.

7/25/2008 01:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please, enough with the Cuban myths!The art in Cuba is propaganda, plain and simple. And when the chocolate money ran out everybody left.

A Cuban.

7/25/2008 02:27:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

You make a really crappy point! POWER TO THE CRAPPY!!!

It is somewhat ironic the both Ed and franklin, who were recently railing against government ease dropping as intrusive of their privacy and a violation of civil rights, but to qualify to receive grants would gladly invite the same government into their lives to investigate their financial and tax status. Same thing would happen if the gov’ started subsidizing your studio or other expenses. Comparing ease dropping to tax and financial investigations is like comparing a kiss on the cheek to a colonoscopy. It’s no accident the IRS is more feared than the KGB. Remember the law of unintended consequences.

7/25/2008 04:22:00 PM  
Anonymous sus said...

Just to sort of swing things back to the point of the article that Ed quoted, this kind of government support is more of a social program than it is support for the arts. Even if the supported venue or artist is doing excellent work the funder's primary purpose is the promotion of minority-informed work.

While this kind of funding can be effective for organizations, it is also somewhat limiting. It invariably is given not just to promote minority artists, but to promote minority artists whose work is informed by their minority status. This kind of support doesn't really help a minority artist break the barriers within the art sphere. In some ways, it reinforces these barriers, since the artist's work isn't judged by its own merit but by its capacity to encapsulate an experience.

As for government support for the arts in general; it is absolutely necessary. Without government support there would be no museums, no symphonies, no summer park performances. The government already supports all of this, probably as much as it does many other cultural initiatives. Sports arenas receive a lot of support because they generate a lot of secondary and tertiary revenues. Monetary support, at least in this American culture, will go to the entities that can prove their return.

7/25/2008 07:29:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Sus says: Monetary support, at least in this American culture, will go to the entities that can prove their return.

I hear you, Sus. So to extrapolate from your good point, there's a kind of institutionalized "racism" --artsism?--when it comes to the arts. There's not much attention given to art, so it doesn't get the the kind of attendance that, say, baseball gets, which means it doesn't get the monetary support. Until there's 10 minutes of arts coverage at the 5:00, 6:00 and 11:00 pm news, or until we get to have a "subway series" between The Whitney and The New Museum, I guess we can continue to look at paltry sums.

P.S. to Sr. Cuban: I have no desire to get into a cultural argument with you, but I know what I saw: paintings and drawings that recorded the events and places of people in the town. In the absence of cameras, film, batteries and digital recorders, these works on paper and canvas were poignant testimony to peoples' lives. There were no Fidel flags flying. (Indeed, there was no mention of him at all--only a gesture of thumb and forefinger rubbing the chin to invoke the bearded one when complaints were vocally but quietly registered.)

P.P.S: James, you made me laugh out loud--crappily of course.

7/25/2008 08:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Edward, Art in Canada is government-funded and it's not lazy. The successful artists have very busy calendars. Or does someone know Canadian art enough to point me why it's lazy? I find a lot of it to be installative, whereas Chelsea art is often centered on the object (the painting, the sculpture). This could be explained by the fact canadian artists are not seeking to please a market, but the best is to have both worlds inter-influencing each others.

I think the idea of funded arts = socialist or community agenda is cliché.

And yes, art is democratic, that's why they shut down that Richard Serra. Serra was wrong. Art is out there because enough people like it. If we didn't like it we would all be burning it in firepiles.



7/25/2008 11:33:00 PM  
Blogger Jon said...

According to Borough President Scott Stringer, tourists list art and cultural institutions as the number one reason why they come to NY. Tourism generated $28 billion in revenue for NYC last year (here, page 8). Or in the UK, the Tate Modern is the second most visited attraction in the country.

So Sus - like sports and entertainment, there is clear evidence that the arts generate huge secondary and tertiary revenue streams.

Yet arts organizations are struggling to stay in NYC. The case for government support of the arts here has never been stronger.

Meanwhile, to put things in perspective, New York City gave 9.6 million dollars of public ICIP subsidies to chain retail stores like The Gap, and $350,000 to fast food restaurants like McDonalds. We can safely say not one tourist came to New York because of McDonalds or The Gap.

And the US consistently sits at the Bottom of the charts in terms of public funding of the arts.

This must change if we want to keep NY as a cultural capital.

Ed raises the crucial question: its not whether we fund in the arts, but how.

Too often, government arts funding organizations link funds to some form of social agenda. It is flawed reasoning to argue that the arts must show direct economic, educational or social benefits.

Arts funding organizations should drop social agendas, and instead rely on peer review by a diverse group of art experts to identify what arts should be funded. They should point to secondary and tertiary revenue streams to justify this funding, rather than lamely trying to claim the funding is a tool for social change.

PS. There has been an ongoing debate of this topic in the UK, regarding the England Arts Council, see e.g. this post.

7/26/2008 08:04:00 AM  
Blogger kalm james said...

The number of responses and views on this subject reflects its complexity. And the How of the funding is perhaps more important than the Why.

Everyone would like to see more cash pumped into the art system. In recent years the grant givers have shied away from individual grants in favor of institutions. Now every wannabe is starting their own publicly funded institution.

Other examples of these programs running amuck would be the Canadian and Dutch situations where they paid artists stipends and expected a number of works in return. Of course, due to human nature, the artists never returned their best work. Both countries eventually faced incredible storage problems (due to the fact that even the workers in public offices didn’t want crappy work on their walls) and were forced to liquidate the collections, destroying much of it. This also happened with lots of the work produced for the WPA. (Check out the eye witness reports from Geoffrey Dorfman’s “Out of the Picture: Milton Resnick and the New York School”, Midmarch Arts Press, New York, 2002)

We should be proud, that despite America coming in at the bottom of the list of for public support for the arts, we nonetheless have created the largest and densest art community in the Modern world. Rather than having the “guberment” throw money at a problem we should look at those conditions that helped to foster what we have, and encourage the private end of things as well.

Oh and Joanne, what do you mean “Until there's 10 minutes of arts coverage at the 5:00, 6:00 and 11:00 pm news”, you can get the best art coverage around, 24/7, at the “Kalm Report” check it out. (with no guberment funding) but if you wanna send cash…

7/26/2008 11:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here in LA arts news on radio and the newspaper is related to an afterthought. KCRW, the classical station, airs interesting reviews and commentaries about music, movies, theatre and dance. When they mention the visual arts, it's about an artist interacting with children.
LA Times has reviews but on their website if you go to reviews, the art reviews are not listed.

Art is for children. Unless it's in a museum.

7/26/2008 12:55:00 PM  
Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...

There's an appeal to support diversity in art criticism over at ARTicles. Doesn't social diversity in art criticism amount to funding diversity?

7/26/2008 01:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Ed, you may be right that it wouldn't hurt for our leaders to suggest that people value art, in the sense that it wouldn't kill any puppies, but that's about it. They have no mandate to do so. If people aren't interested in art, they shouldn't be made to pay for it, and there's something offensive about their elected representatives doing so anyway because they know better.

Joanne, there are zero players making millions who play crappy ball. One of the nice things about sports is that you can measure quality. Nevertheless I don't support subsidies for sporting arenas either.

James, the only granting entity that ever asked for a copy of my tax return was a private one. I'm not sure what you're talking about.

Sus, I can't speak for symphonies or outdoor theater, but there are indeed museums that don't receive government support, the MFA and ICA in Boston being notable examples. If people want museums they will figure out how to establish them and keep them.

Jon, if the arts generate "secondary and tertiary revenue streams" without generating a primary one, you have what we call a broken business model. Too, there is no reason for NYC to remain a cultural capital if facts on the ground don't support it as such.

7/26/2008 01:10:00 PM  
Blogger Jon said...

Franklin, you are right, that would be a broken business model. However, we are discussing government funding, not how to run a business. Literally dozens of government funding initiatives operate through incentives aimed at growing tax revenues - and these usually consider secondary and tertiary effects (e.g. NYSTAR). Keeping NY as a cultural capital serves that goal. Are you arguing ths makes a broken government model?

7/26/2008 05:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

---we nonetheless have created the ---largest and densest art
----community in the Modern world.

Which one? Where? Do you mean in the 60's or now? The YBA or the canadian Vancouver school are as strong communities as I can find anywhere. New York is huge but that's because all artists from anywhere internationally move there (it's changing, they're moving to London and Berlin).

Where can I read about evidences that Canada faced huge storage problems of crap at? Canadian artists are usually financed, not bought. The portion of the art actually bought by the government is a joke compared to the portion that is financed (exhibited), which is the main focus of government funding. If you come to my city, all the bet galleries are funded art centres. The commercial galleries are crap (very few of them worth a visit).



(ICA in Boston receives intermittently shows that are at least partially government funded.)

7/26/2008 05:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

I'd hesitate to call it a broken government model if it's doing anything right, but you might get a different answer out of the obviously aggrieved Cultural Equity Group. Compared to art, there is a much more robust consensus on what constitutes quality science (I'm using your NYSTAR example) and why we need it. On any topic that has so little consensus, you're going to end up with these extraneous concerns like education, diversity, egalitarianism, and fiscal impact entering the discussions about how to go about anything as an organization. At that point you have to wonder whether you're using the best model.

If you believe like I do that the government's primary responsibility is to guarantee liberty, then you want it out of the affairs of individuals as much as possible. Because tax revenues are essentially the impounded property of individuals, you prefer to allow private, consenting, mutually agreeable parties to solve any problems within their powers to affect, and I would handily class arts funding among such problems.

7/26/2008 09:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The whole diversity issue is a giant quagmire and should be considered separately from the issue of whether/how/how much government should support the arts. "Diversity" is code for affirmative action, and you may be for or against AA, in school admissions, in hiring practices, in any other area, but that should be considered separately from funding for the arts. We could have a whole discussion focusing on AA.

7/27/2008 03:06:00 PM  
Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...

I'm sorry, but no matter what you think of affirmative action, since when is providing funding for a place like Museo del Barrio going to fall under that rubric?

I am also a strong defender of liberty, and of public funding for the arts. That tax revenues are the "impounded property" of individuals is absurd.

7/27/2008 04:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any funding that is based on the ethnicity (or gender or sexual orientation, etc., etc.) of the recipient falls under the rubric of affirmative action. I don't think that's an inflammatory or provocative statement. I didn't say that was good or bad. But like I said above, that's really another discussion.

And tax revenues could certainly be called impounded property of individuals; I'm not a libertarian and I'm for government funding for the arts, but Franklin's phrase is an accurate, if slightly judgmental, way of describing involuntary taxation, or am I missing something?

anon 3:06

7/27/2008 06:53:00 PM  
Anonymous sus said...

jon said --
So Sus - like sports and entertainment, there is clear evidence that the arts generate huge secondary and tertiary revenue streams.

Yet arts organizations are struggling to stay in NYC. The case for government support of the arts here has never been stronger.

Govenrment funding is going to the arts organizations that are generating secondary and tertiary revenues. The funding is going to large and established museums, which have a proven record of impacting economic health.

Small arts organizations simply don't have the budget to leverage direct economic impact. Many of them have to prove their contribution in other ways, like supporting the voice of minorities or providing opportunities for disadvantaged populations to be exposed to the arts or to produce art that is salient to their population.

Small arts organizations everywhere are the first to be cut from funding, it is true. I believe that their goals are unimpeachable. But that doesn't stop me from observing that these efforts have not managed to breach the barriers of minority artists within the mainstream art sphere. Their efforts have created a separate, but not equal, sphere.

7/27/2008 07:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed, why not have a discussion on "identity" politics in the art world?

anon 3:06

7/27/2008 08:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Why don't we just vote?

Who wants public art funds?

I just really want to see the results. Bring all your gang down here, Franklyn, give it a big shot.
I want to see the results.

Cast my vote as Pro-fundng.


7/28/2008 01:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...,,id=159932,00.html#_Toc153765519

7/28/2008 01:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

I don't have a gang, Cedric. I have principles. But, noted - the ESL speaker in Canada who refuses to spell my name correctly supports public art funding.

@ Anon 1:13: Obviously, the IRS thinks that what it's doing is just fine. In a related development, the Justice Department has ruled waterboarding is not torture. It's easy to decide whether they're right by looking at the consent of the affected party. By its own admission, the history of the income tax is closely tied to the waging of wars. That's no accident and it continues not to be an accident.

7/28/2008 10:04:00 AM  
Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...

War tax resistance makes sense to me - because I have principles (I would also support some form of a single-payer health care plan). What is missing here is a discussion of what libertarian COLLECTIVISM can do, rather than me/mine offense.

There is an excellent essay in dissent by Jesse Larner on Friedrich Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom," he writes:

"... it is worth pointing out that Hayek understood at least one very big thing: that the vision of a perfectible society leads inevitably to the gulag. Experience should have taught us by now that human societies are jerry-built structures, rickety towers of ad hoc solutions to unforeseen problems. Their development is evolutionary, and as in biological evolution, they do not have natural end-states. They are what they are continuously becoming."

Courtesy of Barbara O'Brien at Mahablog.

7/28/2008 11:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

I have no idea what "libertarian COLLECTIVISM" or "me/mine offense" means, but if you think they're missing from the discussion, feel free to supply them. And the excerpt is hardly a dissent from Hayek. In fact, it supports what I said above, because the private sector has much more freedom and incentive to evolve than the public sector.

7/28/2008 04:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Cedric: pro-funds
Catherine: pro-funds
Joanna: pro-funds
Sus: pro-funds
Jon: ?

Franklin: anti-funds
James: ...anti-funds?

Edward: ?

Anyone else? I am bidding a 70 per cent win pro-funds.


(this post didn't pass the first time, I may be too stupid to understand what is wrong with it...putting words in other people's mouths?)

7/29/2008 07:51:00 PM  

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