Thursday, November 5, 2009

Even the Renaissance was Privately Funded

I was listening to NPR this morning (had a headache anyway and didn't figure it could get any worse) and heard the chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, Rocco Landesman, a Broadway producer, was talking about his efforts to bring the NEA from the 'East Wing to the West Wing' in the White House.  In essence, he has the skewed worldview that the NEA is on a par with other domestic agencies such as Health and Human Services and that the NEA should be involved with domestic economic policymaking, basically in order to ensure that its present budget of $167 million is increased in the future.

Not surprisingly, one of his first acts as the chair of the NEA is to go on a taxpayer funded six month junket tour of the United States called 'Art Works' looking at arts organizations.  In this companion article, the final quote just kills me....

After Peoria, Landesman will travel to St. Louis, Memphis, Nashville, and points west. The one-time Broadway producer will be seeing and declaring, at each stop, that art works.
I am a big believer in the arts--I was in theater and chorus in high school and chorus and band in grade school.  BUT, I do not think that public funding (outside of school funding for activities) is appropriate for the arts.  This is, in part, because art is subjective.  I do not think that putting your autograph on $20 bills and handing them out counts as art.  I do not think that plexiglass tubes of blood that is purported to be aborted fetuses counts as art.  I do not think that a crucifix in urine is art (it is a personal statement, surely but I don't count it as art).

In Renaissance Italy, all artists found patrons and got room and board in return for painting, sculpting, etc. things that the patrons wanted.  If an artist was particularly good and produced items with mass appeal, then several patrons would vie for the favor of that artist and he could set a higher price for his pieces (free market at its best).  I think that worked just fine.  I don't think that taxpayer money should be used for funding whatever the elistists would term as art, especially now that the Obama administration has begun to use the art community as a propoganda machine.

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