Friday, January 9, 2009

One of these Presidents is not like the other, not like the other...

White House Appoints Office of the Arts?

This just in from artnet.

"The transition team of President-elect Barack Obama is keeping a firm hand on any appointment news, but the buzz in art-and-politics precincts has the new administration seriously considering the idea of an official White House Office of the Arts, overseeing all things having to do with the arts and arts education. The new arts czar wouldn’t be a cabinet-level position -- too complicated and too limiting, say insiders -- but rather a liaison with the president with real access to funds and power."

In other countries, it's quite common to have a Ministry of Culture headed up by someone in the Cabinet who's sole job is to promote the heritage, culture and the arts of that country.

We are not that kind of country.

Yes, we have the NEA, but it was only created relatively recently in our country's history, in 1965, and operates as an independent agency of the federal government. Yes, funding comes from the government, but there is no person in the White House Cabinet who has the job of overseeing our arts and culture.

Why not?

Good question.

We like to spend billions of dollars on tanks and missiles and invading other countries, but for some reason, don't want to spend even 1/100th of that kind of money on the arts (or education for that matter). Because what's really important is blowing people up, not making art.

By the way, it's positively mind-boggling to me how enraged the general public can become over a small percentage of government funding that is used for what people deem as questionable art, like "Piss Christ", but nowhere near that kind of emotion when they realize that billions of your tax payer money pays for guns, bullets, missiles, planes and tanks that KILL people. What they don't realize is that when they cut NEA funding they are also cutting funding for public programs like free Shakespeare in the park, Shakespeare festivals, symphonies, music education programs, art supplies for schools, etc.

(Okay, I'm ranting again. It's been a busy week and I haven't seen the sun in a really long time.)

The buzz around Obama is that he is going to appoint someone. Now, there are pros and cons to this argument of whether or not he should. I will not pretend to be smart enough to understand all the economic and political sides to this equation. I don't know. We could be headed for another Federal Theater Project (which put a lot of theater folks to work) or other type programs that were popular during the Great Depression. Again, lots of pros and cons here.

And I know we have a lot of problems in the world today, most prevalent being our sucky economy. I know we have world health problems.

But art and culture is what differentiates us from animals and machines.

And I don't want to just be a healthy and wealthy automaton.

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