The conservative consensus is creative people can’t change shit. Big Business however, now that’s where its at.
It was reported this afternoon that Republicans believe President Obama’s stimulus bill contains wasteful spending. The National Endowment for the Arts was named, as their 50 billion dollar funding from this stimulus bill is considered, by conservatives, wasteful. The NEA is arguably the leading organization for the arts and arts education.
I made a promise to myself not to quote a bunch of numbers and stats. That tends to get boring. So I will keep it to the next paragraph only.
Most (if not all) NEA groups presented with funds are non-profit organizations. Not mentioned, or perhaps even known, by Republicans is that grants awarded by the NEA will generate 600-700 million dollars, and match federal support ten to one.* Not only that, but NEA programs like The Big Read help reduce illiteracy rates by introducing reading for enlightenment and pleasure to parents, who in turn make reading more of a priority in their household.
But check this out: The NEA also gives a hand to both domestic and international artists, with domestic artists having first acknowledgement. Additionally, using a grant from the NEA, a healthcare database for artists and people working in the entertainment industry was created by the Actors’ Fund of America. And since then has expanded to include resources for the self-employed, low-income, under insured, and uninsured. Plus, they have awarded at least one grant to EVERY congressional district in the United States. That’s pretty impressive.
From these grants a community develops and over the years reflects our economic climate. Many non-profit publications using their platform to spread the creative word have ceased production. Considering that other publications, nonprofits, colleges, and self-employed individuals advertise in their pages, producing revenue for all involved, the realization of what’s occurring hurts even more. This is somewhat common in the publishing world, yes, but the number of publications ceasing has risen, and with speed.
The majority of individuals receiving grants are either studying to become teachers, or are teachers themselves. This becomes a double pronged attack on our failing school systems, because these individuals also tend to run non-profit organizations—like 826LA, a drop-in writing and tutoring center with satellite locations in San Francisco and Seattle, to name a few cities. These organizations provide a much needed supplemental backbone for our educational sectors.
Now, I mention all of this so that an understanding of the Republican stance comes clear: the arts are not truly important. It could be debated that a bigger allowance of artists’ grants pales in the face of our economy—we need more focus and money going to big business; going to the people in higher positions who can stimulate what needs stimulating.
Hmm… If a fractured building is causing the ground to crumble, then you not only reinforce the structure itself, but also the foundation. Meaning, to fix our problem you don’t just begin at the top trying to fix problems, you bring in a whole crew to work on the overall site.
Art, in all its forms, has always been for the people. It can be done by anyone, anywhere, and needs not a thing except the passion to create. But it appears (as it always was, but is just now becoming perfectly clear), that politicians in Washington (and locally) are aligning themselves with the views of an old Secretary of Treasury, Alexander Hamilton. He believed “that government must ally itself with the richest elements of society to make itself strong”.*
1: Gioia, Dana. “Chairman’s Statement”. National Endowment of the Arts. 28 January 2009
2: Zinn, Howard. A People’s History of the United States 1492-Present. First Perennial Classics edition. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001.