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Public Art Funding

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.

Read the whole cranky thing and the Huff­in­g­ton Post arti­cle he’s respond­ing to.

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.

Posted in the art world.

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  1. Maya Bailey says

    you just have to get used to mod­ern art to appre­ci­ate the beauty of it .:,

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