“Republican governor Sam Brownback of Kansas signed a new $13.8 billion spending plan over the weekend, affecting sweeping reductions across state governmental expenditures, and taking a shocking step toward the privatization of the arts.”
This was the story of the day for June 1st of this year. Well, at least it was the story of that day. Of course earlier this year there were similar stories of how Governor Cuomo (D-NY) “butchered” the arts budget for New York and how Governor Brewer (R-AZ) submitted a budget “slashing” arts spending in Arizona. Similar stories of the onrushing demise of civilization as we know it were published concerning Texas, Wisconsin, Washington State, Oregon and South Carolina. Liberal-Progressive-Democrats are clearly in a tizzy.
The phrase “…the privatization of the arts” was the most interesting aspect of the story, though. One can certainly understand why those seeking to gorge themselves at the public trough would object to any reduction in their free lunch, but “privatization of the arts”? When did the arts become the responsibility of the government, on a par with national defense or the post office?
There are those who say that governments have always supported the arts and that government support of the arts has centuries of precedent. Really? Do these folks mean that when kings took money from the peasants, and spent it to add art within the walls of his palaces, that was public funding for the arts? It was public funding of the arts for the benefit of the peasants who had to cough up the money to pay the artist who was doing an extreme makeover of the palace for the Man? When Queen Victoria lined Buckingham Palace with countless works by great artists, using money coerced from her subjects by the British government, was that for the benefit of the working poor?
Contrary to what the L-P-Ds try to sell us, public art does not always depend on public money. The famous statue in Chicago by Pablo Picasso is a landmark by almost anyone’s definition, yet it cost the taxpayers of Chicago, the State of Illinois and the citizens of the United States not one thin dime. Back in 1967 the cost of erecting the statue was about $352,000 and it was completely paid for by three charitable organizations: the Woods Charitable Fund, the Chauncey and Marion Deering McCormick Foundation, and the Field Foundation of Illinois. Of course it was to be erected as part of a monument to Mayor Richard Daley. It was, after all, placed in front of the Chicago Civic Center, which was renamed for Mayor Daley on December 27, 1976, seven days after his death. But hey…it’s Chicago.
Art is not something that is necessary, regardless of how impassioned supporters are about public funding. Those who do find art necessary will find art without help from their fellow citizens. How many of the great artists of history died penniless? They were driven to their art, and cared not a bit about compensation from the public.
Public funding for the arts is a conceit of the L-P-D elites who want symphonic music, opera and the visual arts to flourish, and are happy to spend our money to satisfy their whims. And they, like Captain Renault in Casablanca, are “shocked, just shocked” to find that not everyone agrees with their self-centered desires. Part of the resistance to public funding for the arts is the obvious disconnect between the claims by the LPDs that the arts would suffer without it when viewed against the reality of the world.
It seems that only certain forms of art, those appealing to the self-described elites, are worthy of public support. Civic philharmonic orchestras come to mind. Opera is included in their list of protected media. Visual arts that include homoerotic photography, images of a crucifix submerged in urine, and other “artistic” expressions also need to flourish when well watered with fertilizer in the form of government support.
Contrasted with these loud claims on public monies is the reality that Madonna concerts have never needed public funds. Nor have the Beach Boys, or Elvis, or soap operas.
But according to the elites, these things are not really art. Only THEY can define art. Anything that we choose without their guidance and approval, and are willing to pay for without complaint out of our own pockets, for our own pleasure, is certainly not art.
Art, to them, is something that we are supposed to willing to pay for without complaint out of our own pockets, solely for their pleasure. So too are the artists that they support, with names like Michael Moore, Jackson Pollack, Piet Mondrian and Roman Polanski coming to mind.
Perhaps we require a new, common understanding of what art really is. A working definition, if you will.
For the L-P-D elites, that definition might be: If an average person, who hasn’t attended an Ivy League propaganda mill, questions what is being presented, who doesn’t have a clue what the message is supposed to be, and who, at a visceral level, feels offended by what they see, or who feels it attacks the nation that he or she loves, then it must be art.
Now let’s make sure we fund things based on that definition…if anyone thinks that they can. We can’t let art die, can we?