Archive for the ‘National Endowment for the Arts’ Category
There has been a running debate for decades about the extent to which the government should support the arts. It’s nice to know that Obama recognizes the contributions that the arts make to our communities, nation, and world. Here is an excerpt from a recent piece in the NY Times.
Given the battle in Congress to include money for the arts in the stimulus package, cultural groups say Washington officials still fail to recognize artists as workers. “The third violinist in a chamber orchestra goes out and buys groceries just like everybody else,” said Bill Ivey, a former chairman of the Endowment.
Teresa Eyring, the executive director of the Theater Communications Group, which represents the country’s nonprofit theaters, said: “Local and regional elected officials and community leaders are seeing and talking about the connection between the arts and the overall health of their communities. The same sensibility hasn’t quite landed at the national level.”
“In President Obama we have a leader who is making the connection,” she added, “who seems to understand both the spiritual and economic necessity of the arts to our nation’s strength.”
Mr. Ivey, who led the transition team devoted to the arts and recently met with Mr. Dale, said he expected the White House position to involve coordinating the work of the Endowment, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
“It’s great to have a direct West Wing connection,” Mr. Ivey said.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had an administration that thought about the vibrancy of our cultural life as a central public policy,” he added, “as a marker of quality of life in a democracy.”
[See "Update" from February 15th below.]
Quickly, which of these pictures doesn’t belong with the others? If you selected #3, the Guggenheim Museum, consider yourself smarter than most members of Congress. Seems that Congress can’t tell the difference between a casino, a golf course, and a museum.
The Senate pulled the plug on 50 million dollars for the National Endowment for the Arts that was originally in the stimulus bill, a pittance really, given the size of the stimulus package. But it then added insult to injury by attaching an amendment prohibiting the use of stimulus funds for, “any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, arts center, or highway-beautification project.” And even Senator Schumer signed off on this one. (He claimed that it was an error. Hmmm. This is the guy who recently brought us “Annie Oakley” Gillibrand as the junior Senator from NY. ) New York Magazine, 2/12/09.
It appears that Congress, unlike the president, is willing to accept the notion that the arts are just another form of recreation or entertainment. The arts do entertain, and good entertainment is to be prized, but this is not all that they do. The Germans have a term for what that arts can help accomplish: Bildung. The word is not easily translated, and there has been much debate about how it should be understood. But what can be said here (this is a blog, after all, not a treatise) is that Bildung suggests (personal or social) growth through education, experience, and creative endeavors. Golf, for example, for all of its virtues as a sport, or casinos, for all of their character producing vices, will not generate Bildung. But spending time with (great) works of art may, if one is open to them. To put the matter succinctly, art is an individual and social good; it is educational in ways that casinos and golf courses are not.
I support the stimulus package. (As a matter of fact, I would argue that it’s too small.) I understand that there was a need to get the stimulus package through asap. I understand that the Republicans remain caught in a time warp. With tax cuts as their only mantra and the market still a god, they deserve John Boehner’s bombasts and Eric Cantor’s cant. But come on, did no Democrats read this amendment? First, the Democrats should have defended the money for the arts because of the unique role that they play in society. (Let’s not, for example, forget the role of artists in the WPA during the great depression.) Second, in practical terms, there is billions in this bill for people in all sorts of industries, but not a penny for artists, who also need jobs, and the non-profits that help support so many of them. Let us also not forget that the performing arts are economic engines in many communities, and yet we invest relatively little in them as a society. We expect them to live off private charity or outrageously priced tickets. The result: too many poor and middle class folks are cut off from the performing arts. (Are you listening Schumer?)
And yes, the package is also unfair to those who work in zoos and aquariums, typically non-profits, whose budgets surely will be cut in these hard times. While it’s not clear that zoos generate Bildung, although they might, they are certainly educational and serve the common good. (And they too employ people.) Obviously Congress can’t tell the difference between this, a non-profit educational institution,
Qualcomm Stadium (The name says it all)
UPDATE, February 15, 2009. “Saving Federal Arts Funds: Selling Culture as an Economic Force.” The New York Times reports that the 50 million for the arts was salvaged in the final bill. In addition, the offending language comparing museums to casinos was removed. Democrats, all is forgiven. Republicans, you are still in the dog house. Here is an excerpt from the Times column.
As the details of the final bill were being hammered out, tens of thousands of arts advocates around the country were calling and e-mailing legislators. Arts groups also organized an advertising blitz arguing that culture contributes 6 million jobs and $30 billion in tax revenue and $166 billion in annual economic impact.
The tide turned. In addition to preserving the $50 million allocation, the final bill eliminated part of the Senate amendment that would have excluded museums, theaters and arts centers from any recovery money.
“It’s a huge victory for the arts in America,” said Robert L. Lynch, the president of Americans for the Arts, a lobbying group. “It’s a signal that maybe there is after all more understanding of the value of creativity in the 21st-century economy.”
That Senate amendment, proposed by Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, had grouped museums, theaters and arts centers with implied frivolities like casinos and golf courses.
Sometimes you can almost smell a cheap shot.
The stimulus package that passed the House last week failed to receive one Republican vote. Among the worthwhile provisions in the bill is fifty million dollars for the National Endowment for the Arts. This is no mere give away. The money would help to stimulate the economy, even though it is a rather paltry sum for the whole nation–the price of one CEO’s jet to be exact. But the arts certainly make for an easy target, especially when you are willing to lie about the contents of the bill.
While the debate over the stimulus package was raging, the Republican whip, Mr. Eric Cantor, claimed that $300,000 had been set aside in the bill for a sculpture garden in Miami. Well, here are the facts. No such provision exists in the bill. It seems that Cantor felt that the package wasn’t specific enough for his taste, so he decided to claim on national TV that a project that had been funded in the past is in the current bill. From Politifact.com (St. Petersburg Times):
In an interview with Fox News on Jan. 23, 2009, Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, the House Republican whip, said that in a meeting with President Obama, Cantor asked if he “could use his influence on this process to try and get the pork barrel spending out of the bill. I mean, there’s $300,000 for a sculpture garden in Miami.” . . .
“We don’t know what they’re going to spend it on,” Bradley [a Cantor spokesperson] said. “There is no direction to the NEA on how to spend it.”
So to give people an idea of how the NEA spends its money, Cantor’s staff looked at some recent grants awarded by the NEA.
And in 2008, the NEA gave $300,000 to the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami to restore an outdoor statuary. The Vizcaya estate is one of the country’s most intact remaining examples from the American Renaissance, a period when the very wealthy built estates to look European. The $300,000 grant was to help restore some of the outdoor sculptures — statues, urns and fountains — that had been severely deteriorating due to South Florida’s salty, damp and subtropical climate, not to mention the hurricanes.
But again, this was an NEA grant from last year .
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
Yes, there certainly have been more serious lies by politicians, but the point is that here you have the House whip willing to make stuff up (non-existent pork) in order to help sink the stimulus package. Pretty shameless stuff. (As a matter of fact, Eric, it’s a shanda fur die goyim. You should know better.)
The fact is that 1) artists have lost jobs in the current recession and 2) the arts are economic engines in many communities. There is good statement on the website of the National Endowment for the Arts detailing reasons for supporting the provision for the arts in the stimulus package. For example, the statement cites a report by the National Governor’s Association:
A recent study released by the National Governors Association titled Arts & the Economy: Using Arts and Culture to Stimulate State Economic Development states, “Arts and culture are important to state economies. Arts and culture-related industries, also known as ‘creative industries,’ provide direct economic benefits to states and communities: They create jobs, attract investments, generate tax revenues, and stimulate local economies through tourism and consumer purchases.”
P.S. Eric Cantor appears to be a major piece of work. Here he is trying to blame Congress during Jimmy Carter’s administration for the current housing crisis.
UPDATE 2-11-09. More Cantor…This guy is just what the Republicans need to make sure that they remain the minority party for the next few generations. Go, Eric (and his Office), Go.