Monday, January 2, 2012

Occupy Wall Street and the Arts

In the U.S.A. there is little support for the arts from the government. Most of it comes from private quaarters, meaning the wealthy, the "one percent-ers". These contributions also come with the sticky tendrils of power, meaning control/demands/influence. It's inevitable, and as we have seen with government support of the arts, it happens there also.

How to respond to the OWS art protests? First, the arts need money to thrive let alone survive. Changing the balance of its origin to a more European type of  public funding would certainly work, but the transition, if possible, needs to be gradual, not the sudden de-funding of the many arts institutions that would tank otherwise.

Many of the institutions involved, with seats costing several hundred dollars for one performance do have 99% affordable  nosebleed seats, cheap last-minute tickets, and lower-priced or free performances or dress rehearsals.

Even with public funding, the problem of the distribution of power is likely to remain.

Ronald Reagan tried to abolish the NEA, then (thankfully) reversed his position.

Andres Serrano and Piss Christ

Jesse Helms and Robert Mapplethorpe.

Karen Finley, Tim Miller, John Fleck, and and Holly Hughes are performance artists whose grants were vetoed politically.

In 1994, Newt Gingrich tried to stop all funding for the arts in the US.

This cuts both ways: Yosi Sergant, NEA Director in 2009, was alleged to have directed artists to create works encouraging Barack Obama's domestic agenda. The NEA claimed the call was autonomous by Mr. Sergant, and had nothing to do with grants.

I doubt that the inequities of power stemming from grants moneys to the arts can ever be neutralized regardless of the source, but this is not to say we should accept them or stop trying to minimize them.

For more on this, read here: [Link]

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