Tuesday, January 8, 2013

One reason the Arts DON'T need Government funds

In the 1920's and 30's, for many reasons that were pressing at the time, the US Government started what would become a mammoth policy of farm subsidies.  The policies were designed to give farmers support in times when their crops were in less demand.  Through many iterations, these well-intentioned laws eventually created a "get big or get out" mandate for family farms, strict government oversight, and less nutrient-rich food being served at our dinner tables.  Farmers, in the face of changing economics and diet patterns over the decades, were asked not to innovate their businesses but to dumb down their products for mass consumption. 

I have a point here...so bear with me!  There are countless examples of government funding resulting in lower standards, poor innovation, and negative or dangerous results: No Child Left behind, section 8 housing, Social Security, and more.  The "decency amendment" of 1990 is where us artists come in.  As a result of this amendment, the NEA can only distribute government funds to support art that meets the "general standards of decency and respect...of the American public."  Congress, backed by the Supreme Court, maintains that artists must not innovate, but must dumb down their presentations to the taste and sensitivity of the lowest common denominator.

This isn't art.

Government arts funding does a lot of good, don't get me wrong.  It provides money for arts education, intercultural arts exchanges, museum exhibit creation and more.  What it doesn't do is push boundaries.  It maintains art, which is great, and keeps it relatively safe and accessible to the general public.  But to achieve what many think is the purpose of art - to expand culture and push us forward - we should continue looking to private and foundational sources of support. 

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