Should the public pick up the difference between what it costs to build and operate (an arts facility) and what its prime tenants are willing to pay? These aren't one-time questions. Squabbles about who ought to pay for buildings or renovations are endemic...Some(arts organisations) ultimately expired, to universal condolence. No one, so far as I know, shrugged and said, "Too bad; well, that's show business."Where on earth did he come from? What rock has he been hiding under? That is bar-none the best opinion column in years on politicized arts funding.
...We've forgotten, or been taught to forget, that whatever its social or spiritual value, art is a business like any other. When a fine restaurant closes its doors, we may regret its passing, but we don't try to set up an endowment to keep it open; when a plumber goes out of business, we assume the plumber must have ignored the bottom line and hit the Yellow Pages to look for another.
...Somehow only arts organizations are allowed to claim immunity from the laws of financial gravity; for them, there's no connection between supply and demand, balanced budgets are for profiteers and sissies, and water runs uphill when we tell it to.
I am a small-potatoes art supporter in Milwaukee- passionate about my own areas of interest, but not one of the financial heavy-hitters. I think that government support of the arts is by it's nature highly destructive: it cannot be otherwise.
Politically distributed money by it's nature seeks the inoffensive, the safe, the non-controversial. The political posturing- and outright misrepresentation of the issues by the pro-NEA forces- during the 1990s, and the funding of nothing but the bland since then is a case in point.
The pro-NEA people claimed that the anties were engaging in censorship, but I took the trouble to actually read the criticism, and there was no effort at the national level to stop production of such art as Robert Maplethorpe's or Andres Serrano's photographs, nor any federal attempt to stop exhibition. It was to stop handing out taxpayers' money. The anties said explicitly: Make what you want, exhibit what you want. Just don't demand subsidies from the taxpayers, who don't have a choice about handing over their money to the taxman.
I call the whole idea of entitlement to tax money (from any sector, not just the arts) Snarling for Dollars. People have convinced themselves that they have a right to other people's money, extracted against those people's wishes through the tax system. Arts people believe it, baseball teams believe it, football teams believe it, sugar producers and steel producers believe it.
Frankly, I believe that the idea is flat out anti-American. A major philosophical purpose of this country was to let people decide for themselves how to spend their own money. Using the government to extract money from people who wouldn't give their money voluntarily was and is the European system. That is not a system Americans should be admiring. Let the importunate get their money voluntarily- including thru donations- or let them sink.
Arts will be the freer for private funding, unconstrained by politicians demands. The federal government has used it's funding of museums as a major source of control. Museums are addicted to federal money, and now, when the feds say "Do the PC Dance" the museums dance. That is a bad thing, and it is absolutely inherent in politicized funding.