Geez, it seem sto be funding week here at Parabasis. But I couldn't help noticing (thanks to the indispensible Artsjournal) that Dana Gioia, in true Bush appointee form, is insisting that there's nothing wrong with the US Gov't's way of supporting the arts. In fact, he argues, it's better than those stupid Frenchy Europeans:
"In Europe, arts funding comes from the government. In America, it's a partnership between private and public sources. That leads to greater diversity in arts" and a healthy focus on local communities. "Seattle businesses give money to support arts in Seattle," he said. "That's what (programs such as) ArtsFund are about."
Sorry to disagree here but... The reason why we have a system of public and private sponsorship of the arts is that public sponsorship of the arts is woefully insufficient. That's it. It's not a virtuous choice we made on philosophical grounds, it's the reality that exists now because the Government never fulfilled its promise of properly funding the arts.
The result? Very few artists make a living wage from their art, while arts administrators--specifically those in development who spend all year contacting those corporations to get the money the government isn't handing out-- get paid. I should note here that I don't have an axe to grind against arts administrators. I think they're necessary and good people, and many of my friends are in their positions. But the reality remains that the current funding model has lead to an entire class of paid professionals whose job it is to work around the clock to raise that private money.
I think that private sponsorship of the arts is important. If something is a valuable civic good, it should be supported by the communities it is a part of. But right now the private sector is shouldering too much of the burden and also failing in their responsibilities. So where does that leave us?
Also, I would note that government is for and by the people in this country. Saying the government supporting the art is different from the people supporting the art is in fact a false dichotomy. We're responsible for our government, and our government is responsible to us.
For further thoughts, please read my old post "The Rug Removed" here.