Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

February 10, 2009


Chicago Tribune - "The National Endowment for the Arts," wrote sarcastic editorialists at the National Review last week, "is in line for $50 million, increasing its total budget by a third. The unemployed can fill their days attending abstract-film festivals and sitar concerts."

In the Senate, an amendment sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) lumped museums, theaters and arts centers (a terrifyingly vague term) with such frippery as casinos, golf courses and swimming pools as recipients who must be stopped from getting any of this funding. The amendment passed 73-24 on Friday, with many Democrats voting in the majority.

It is time for the American arts community to confront its stunning political ineptitude. It has arrived at a place where there seems to be no one to make its case; no one, at least, free from the taint of self-interest.

After all, the argument that the labor-intensive arts are not job-creation engines is patently absurd; they just fuel different kinds of struggling workers, workers unaccustomed to bonuses. Their role in generating billions of dollars in ancillary economic activity for stores, restaurants and the travel business has been proven in bucket loads of surveys and analyses.

The contrast in priority with the last comparable American stimulus package is simply breathtaking. Funded by the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935, Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration made the arts a priority. Federal Project Number One -- home of the Federal Writers Project, the Federal Theater Project, the Federal Music Project and the Federal Art Project -- was, believe it or not, the largest of the WPA's endeavors.

Its mission was to give more Americans the chance to experience what Roosevelt called "a fuller life." Its legacy -- from invigorating murals to landscape paintings to the careers of Arthur Miller or Orson Welles -- is everywhere you look.

In less than 75 years, the arts have gone from the single largest priority in a government stimulus package to a toxic joke, with a popular special amendment keeping them out. It is a stunning turnaround.

Christopher Knight, LA Times - Tere are five reasons I believe Congress hates the arts:

-The culture industry is cosmopolitan, so flag-waving options are few.

-The culture industry is pluralistic, but Congress is only marginally so.

-As corporations, arts institutions are nonprofit, so there's no money to be made via lobbyists.

-Culture is girlie, not manly.

-The arts often look at sexual experience -- eek!

Got any others?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Art tells the truth in ways that politicians and businessmen cannot control.

But part of the answer is to show that art is not a touchy-feely, non-profit pasttime. It is the entire world of industrial and aesthetic design, fashion, communications, architecture, advertising and promotion. There isn't a single item humans make that isn't designed. There is not a process or procedure in manufacturing or shipping that is not designed. There are no buildings, vehicles, furniture, roads, bridges, dams, or anything else that is not designed. There is nothing sold or promoted without advertising, instruction books, sales sheets, invoices, or paid for with cheques or cash - all designed. Art & Design are THE central human activity. We just need to brag about it more.

February 10, 2009 3:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Real art doesn't need their fucking money. I don't support poor people's tax money paying for art so that rich people's kids can not suffer at work and make bullshit. Fuck the rich people and their tricks. Stupid fake-left liberal bullshit. I've seen it a million times, some over-pampered rich kid gets to do nothing and make CRAP and call it art because everyone wipes their ass for them because their daddy's own buildings. If they put money into the arts its those bullshiters that will get it. The kids who were popular in school and so darn pretty who grew up in fashionable beautiful elites. Nah fuck them. They are the enemies of good folk who have to suffer. Go get a mother fucking job so you can feel the fucking pain like the rest of us who have no fucking future. Everyone is a fucking hypocrite. NO MONEY FOR THE ARTS. Get a job or make the revolution happen but enough of your pretentious inconsequential bullshit. I am sick of rich people pretending to be leftists. If you are rich fuck you when the revolution happens you will be the first to die. Millions have to suffer and die in misery because of these rich spoiled jerks who call themselves progressives. All you know how to do is sit in Starbucks, smiling mocking those who you think are inferior and being fashionistas or recessionistas or similar fucking BULLSHIT you pieces of shit. If you care about poor people, hang out with them. Hang out with people who can't afford a car, or don't look good. Hypocrites I swear you won't do any of those things. I saw no compassion in this world. None. I don't believe in anything anymore. The world is going to fucking rot because you are all hypocrites. Enjoy your tall latte art bitches. P.S. Don't censor my rant, it comes from the heart. If more people spoke from their hearts, experiences and pain maybe REAL change would happen. Good luck waiting for some fucking messiah to make the world a better place. The world becomes a better place when YOU decide to stop being a hypocrite and actually become a good HUMBLE person.

February 10, 2009 7:32 PM  
Blogger nadiarose said...

Whether or not someone supports public funding for the arts has no bearing on whether they 'hate' the arts. What an absurd claim!

I am a working artist - and I oppose public funding. Does this mean I also 'hate' art?

February 11, 2009 11:38 AM  
Anonymous wellbasically said...

I'm with comments 2 and 3... Look up two places on the undernews and read the story about the humanities and all the people who want to be professors. The same thing is in the arts, and the people who will get the lions' share of government money are those already on the academic gravy train.

The WPA was the beginning of disaster for the arts, it taught people that it was more important to please the government art czars than to make things people will pay to look at or hear or otherwise experience. It was part of the Autobahn theory of government which put power in the hands of a few at the top, who would decide what the public wanted.

I make stuff and I have to sell it, and yes it's pretty hard, but because I've stayed away from the academic/government nexus I can concentrate on what it looks like over who has to be fellated.

The academic arts system is made to create deluded graduate students who pay into the system but almost never get a payout. The museums are there with government arts to prop up the investments of the super-rich when they buy an artist low. They also engage in tax-dodging rackets for the ultra-rich by accepting donations of pieces artificially inflated in price at auction.

Finally art is a good target not because art is powerful, but because it's so weak and cannot justify the place it has. Artists became postmodernists and gave up believing in truth, after all, why spend time learning when you could just do a conceptual piece? Theory was good for the lazy. It's impossible to make the case that art schools should take money while the homeless or public schools are not fully supported.

February 11, 2009 1:23 PM  
Anonymous peter shapiro said...

aside from discussing it as per the above comments, let me say that true art is creation, something mysterious and profound that relates to truth. it speaks to the very purpose of life.- syntropy. life's syntropic functioning in the universe. art is a sensual and dogma-less way to touch and experience pure spirit. it is always being degraded miss-used and misunderstood, but as it comes from the human heart it is always being reborn, phoenix -like.. above all, it relates to another mysterious and profound word, beauty.

February 13, 2009 10:40 AM  

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