Alms for the Arts, Alms for the Arts…

Michael Kaiser makes an eloquent case in Monday’s Washington Post encouraging us to help arts organizations make it through our surprisingly vertiginous economic death spiral.  Here:

Allow me to quote his quote:

As John F. Kennedy said, “I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for our victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.”

I know, I know, politicians — Republicans foremost among them — absolutely HATE funding the arts.  “We’ve got a market here.  Pony up and swim, wussies”.

And, there is a baby in that there bathwater.  Well, as political rhetoric goes, a baby in a soiled Olympic-sized pool.  But, a baby nonetheless…

It’s just that as it turns out THE MARKET isn’t good for everything.  I don’t think it’s turned out to be particularly good for education.  And, in the arts it has culminated, for the time being, in Thomas Kinkaide.

Moreover, at the intersection of art and education, a focus on market-suitable ends has given us, apparently, droves of people who would (did) exchange their money for “paintings of light”, or whatever.

Let me tell you how many people I regularly associate with who are not involved in the arts or married to someone involved in the arts who also have the tiniest inkling about how to engage the visual arts:  One.

So, I’m sure you’re aware, every once in a while someone reports on some survey of the happiest countries in the world.  I don’t have any idea how they come up with those ratings.  Pulled from their asses, I suppose.  But, the United States of America never fares well.

Would you care to venture a guess as to how I might lay out a cause & effect relationship here?

Well, how ’bout this for a suggestion:  I propose we all get together, take back a billion or so from AIG or GM (or…), then use it to set up free arts appreciation classes.  This will:

  • Bolster the adjunct sector (cough cough).
  • Pump some money into higher ed that is unrelated to athletics.
  • Give throngs of unemployed people something to do with their free time.
  • Build a more-than-critical mass of people who are capable of accessing and understanding the arts – who will then shift their spending habits toward the arts.

Then, ah then, once we have an entire nation of people whose minds and spirits have been informed and sustained by what they find through their engagement with the arts, we’ll be collectively smart enough to make sure that the next time around we don’t let a load of culturally pervasive, soulless bullshit  get us into a mess like this.

Anyway, what good is all your economic recovery if there’s no humanity left after all the foreclosures have been bought up?