James Lileks on some guy’s plan for the National Endowment for the Arts:
I’m just guessing, but I’ll bet the National Endowment for the Arts was conceived as some sort of middlebrow self-improvement program—sending Pablo Casals LPs to schools, helping small towns put on “Our Town,” subsidizing museums so they could put on challenging works like gigantic Calder mobiles, and paying off the survivors when the damned thing snapped a cable and carved a tour group in stir-fry slices. I’m sure it still funds good things. But let us risk a headache and try to think of a few art forms we managed to create without its assistance:
Rock and Roll
Every movie made in America
Painting that looks like something
Sculpture that looks like someone
As it happens I like modern art, so this isn’t some philistine sneer at funny pitchers what don’t look like Whistler’s Mama. I’m not even opposed in principle to state funding of the art, for two reasons: 1) the monarchs and the church did a fine job of it for millennia, and 2) if some small town wants to help defray the cost of a play in the school gym, fine. But I have to draw a line, because if I say it’s good to support orchestras in large cities with Federal money, then anyone gets to support their favorite kind of art, even if it happens to be guillotining paper-mache replicas of the Founding Fathers on Presidents Day. You get your art, I get mine.
“Yes, but yours stinks” is not a useful reply. Accurate, but irrelevant.
I am personally suspicious of art that is picked by a committee and requires government funding. Of course, that could be sour grapes, as the kind of art I do hasn’t received any government funding in the U.S. since at least the 1930’s.
Feel free to add your thoughts in comments.