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January 28, 2009

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DJA

won't increased government support and action w/r/t the arts inevitably lead down the road at some point to censorship and interference?

Doesn't America's lack of public support for the arts, which is absurdly low by the standards of any other Western nation, also have consequences about what kind of work gets produced? This argument assumes that no public funding for the arts is some kind of neutral baseline position, which is absurd. It's also a standard rightwing trope, that government involvement is "interference" and unrestritcted capitalism is the natural state of things. I think we've seen where that mindset gets us.

Andrew Seger

I have to admit I'm deeply skeptical about a centralized "Arts Czar." Other than explicit censorship the sort of pervasive structural incentives that federal centralized funding would, I think, be really bad for art.

The chapter on Copland & the WPA in "The Rest is Noise" is really essential background reading for this whole discussion.

DJA

"Other than explicit censorship the sort of pervasive structural incentives that federal centralized funding would, I think, be really bad for art."

Name any modern Western nation that has substantial federal arts funding where said funding has actually hurt that country's artistic and cultural output.

The idea that, for example, the Canada Council for the Arts is a net negative for the arts in Canada is risible. You'd have trouble finding a single working artist anywhere in Canada who subscribes to that view.

Seriously, the fears over what might happen if the Feds invest in America's cultural infrastructure -- in other words, bring the USA in line with what is *completely standard in the rest of the developed world* -- are highly overblown and almost totally irrational. It's like the way the right wing likes to stoke nebulous fears about what might happen if we implement "socialized medicine." Or you could, you know, actually look at what *does* happen in other countries.

Andrew Seger

Sure, let's move to the concrete: The way that the Wien Modern is organized & the composers they choose to focus on miss a huge chunk of what's going on with composers today. And I'm not saying that it's a net negative, just that there are other ways we might go about helping artists than some federal art's czar.

There are other things the government could be doing at a federal level-like universal health care-that would be a huge benefit to artists. But I think there is way more of a downside to doing this at a federal level than those arguing for an Art's Czar are really thinking through.

DJA

"The way that the Wien Modern is organized & the composers they choose to focus on miss a huge chunk of what's going on with composers today."

Agreed, but that begs the question...

What's that you say? You anticipated my question?

"And I'm not saying that it's a net negative"

Well, okay then. My view is that Austria's public support for the arts unquestionably makes Austria a vastly better place for artists -- even those marginalized by the specific music festival you mention.

"There are other things the government could be doing at a federal level-like universal health care-that would be a huge benefit to artists."

I agree! But it's not a zero-sum game. Despite the current economic crisis, the US remains the richest country on Earth. Surely we can do both. Like, you know, Canada. And France. And Germany. And Sweden. And... you get the idea.

"But I think there is way more of a downside to doing this at a federal level than those arguing for an Art's Czar are really thinking through."

It's not like the American arts scene as it stands is particularly well-nurtured, and I fail to see how an American Arts Council (modeled after something like the Canada Council for the Arts, which pretty much everybody agrees is a great model) would make things worse, rather than substantially better.

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