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May 02, 2007


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Step One: Admit that you have a problem.

This is great work and it fires me right up.

Have you read Gifts of the Muse?
It's free right here: http://tinyurl.com/3dpl6o

Lee, the brother

can you explain your math in paragraph 5?
there's something about it that doesn't make sense...


Lee, Math in Paragraph 5:

(1) Amount per person spent onthe arts = amount spent on arts times # of people in the country. Although I got the number of people in the country wrong and recalculating with 300 million people instead of 278 million people will change the number and plunge it further down.

(2) Same thing with the Danish statistic as point 1

(3) To get the third statistic, I took the amount spent per person in Denmark and multiplied it times the number of people in the US.

Did i make a mistake in my math? if so, I'll be happy to readjust, but I think the overall point will still stand...


You have to divide the total spent on arts by the number of people, not multiply it. This will result in less than a dollar per person spent on the arts in the US.

Karl Miller

I think your math is a little hazy there. The U.S. spends 47 cents per person on the arts. Denmark, while better, spends $12.72 per person. So the disparity still exists -- Denmark spends 27x what we do, per person.

It's the 47 cents that bugs me, of course. Someone who writes their congressmen to protest nationally-funded art has spent their share on the stamps to mail the complaint.

I like how you connect the issue of public subsidy to the concept of a national theater. If the NEA disaster is "not fixable," then what does that tell us about the prospects of a national theater in the U.S.? What do we even mean by the phrase "national theater" or "American theater" anymore? I don't think the fight for federal subsidy is going to get anywhere unless we, as American theater artists, come up with a new vision for what N.T. or A.T. should be.

I have a big post brewing on that subject, but for now, I think the answers we need for the non-fixable federal subsidy question can be found in our appraisal of A.T. -- and that appraisal cannot be made honestly without ceding some ground on the New York-centrism debate. More later ...


Shit. I meant DIVIDE, not MULTIPLY in my comment earlier. I did divide. I didn't multiply, if you re-run the math, you'll see. Sorry for the typo.

And Karl, you're right. I'll correct the post.

George Hunka

While I would suggest that America adapt a European model of arts subsidy, even the European model is a lost cause. Among the urgent issues in the upcoming French elections will be the very existence of government arts subsidy there, very much under threat. (Private, corporate and foundation support have not been enough to make up for the slashing of the NEA's budget in the wake of the NEA 4; a call for greater support of this sort is wishful thinking, especially for more controversial work.)

One should discover and then support those candidates (we've got a few elections coming up ourselves) who are courageous enough to insist that either the NEA be funded to a meaningful extent (and that funding be restored to individual artists) or a new system of government arts subsidy be implemented. It's very much an uphill battle. But we need to find out, first and foremost, the stances of Obama, Clinton, Edwards, etc. on arts subsidy. And consider those stances when determining for whom we will cast our vote.


I have begun to respond at Theatreforte.


George Hunka

One other thing, in regard to this:

"I mean, maybe President Edwards or Obama would want to increase the budget of the NEA to $500 million dollars but (a) that's still not enough money and (b) they would also have to restructure the rules of the agency and remove all the decency provisions for it to be truly helpful. And last time I checked, there's a war going on, we need Universal Health Care, some amount of wealth redistribution, outsourcing protection for our workers, to stave off impending environmental apocalypse etc. Who is going to make the case for the arts in the midst of all of that?"

Well, I will. Because the cultural and psychic health of a nation is just as important as its economic, physical, ecological health. To say otherwise is to risk marginalizing our own work, to suggest ourselves that it's trivial. If we truly believe in its importance, in its necessity, then let's say it's important and necessary, as important as necessary enough to the community as any other government activity. The market has clearly failed, and even Adam Smith admitted that where it does so, government can step in.

For examples of how this can work, we can point to Denmark's art subsidy program, or the Arts Council of Great Britain. There are similar calls on the public purse in these countries (they have environments and armies too), but, until recently, few suggested that the arts' call on this purse was illegitimate. Now they're doing so, in France and elsewhere. A bad sign, and I'd prefer to fight against it, than give in and throw the baby out with the bathwater.


Europe always has (and continues to) put us to shame in terms of arts funding. The NEA was the closest thing we ever had to the public sector taking the arts seriously, and the amount of money allotted to it, even in its glory days, was pathetic in terms of its percentage of our overall spending.

Face it, we live in the land of Uber-capitalism, where only that which can be sold, or is otherwise economically self-sustaining, has value. The arts must spend their funding oh so carefully, yet Pentagon spending scandals ($1000 hammers, anyone?) proliferate without anyone batting an eye. There will always be enough in the community chest for instruments of destruction.

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