Saturday, February 7, 2009

Frustrating News

I've been following Art Serve's push to get arts and culture included in the economic stimulus plan. It's something I've been encouraged by because of the important role that the arts are able to play in a recovery on multiple levels. Yes, they provide jobs, they stimulate spending in local economies, they raise property values, and they encourage commitment to local communities. Just as importantly, the arts raise people's spirits, encourage the creativity necessary to overcome the problems that we are facing, provide a sense of historical perspective, foster tolerance and community building, and give people hope when they have little.

So this news that came out in an ArtServe alert today almost makes me want to cry:

As some of you have already heard, yesterday, the US Senate voted to adopt an amendment to the federal stimulus that would bar any stimulus money for arts and culture. Please read the message below from Americans for the Arts as well as our steps of action needed.

Just a few minutes ago, the U.S. Senate voted to accept, by a vote of 73-24, an amendment offered by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) which states, "None of the amounts appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, art center, and highway beautification project."

This amendment, which was supposedly intended to restrict objectionable spending in a few select federal infrastructure programs, will resulted in prohibiting any spending through the economic recovery in these areas. This is the first clear vote on the arts that has occured in the U.S. Senate since July 12, 2000. The Senate final bill passage is still unclear, although it is expected to take place later tonight. Next week they will have a House-Senate conference committee to agree to a final version for the President to sign.

If this is not taken out of the final bill the project submissions that were sent to Governor Granholm would be void. Senator Debbie Stabenow voted for this amendment and we need your help to get her to re-think her decision as she could be vital in getting this language taken out while the bill is in conference committee. Americans for the Arts has already crafted a letter for you which can be sent by visiting this website:

1 comment:

Ron Redman said...

I know a lot of arts folks will disagree, but I'm not the least surprised this vote went this way. I doubt how much measurable stimulus the arts generate. I imagine that any measure of the benefit would be subjective and a topic of much heated debate.

The only lasting employment the gov't ever provides is bureaucracy and the military. Capitalism creates wealth. I guess my list of candidates for stimulus spending includes a lot of boring things like:

-Infrastructure support (repair of roads, bridges, water, electricity and gas distribution) because this will generate a lot of jobs and provide a lasting benefit to anyone and everyone who uses them. We rely on roads to transport everything we need These funds should also require at least a partial match in funding from the state. Construction can also be a crooked business, so oversight is indicated.
-Basic Transportation for people and goods, urban and rural, including buses and trains, because so many rely on these things to get about. Bus companies (for example) are privately owned, so matching funds, contractual commitments, and oversight must be required.
-Basic energy spending to shore up aging power generation and distribution, stiffen up the grid to avoid disastrous outages, and keep prices low.
-City spending to purchase and demolish abandoned housing, retail space, and manufacturing space, and generate replacements as needed. Lots of manpower (jobs) required.
-Directed, results-based manufacturing spending. This would require a lot of haggling, but I think (for example) that auto manufacturers would build an open-source vehicle perfect as affordable, reliable, basic, minimal, safe local transportation if that was the only way they'd get funding and if regulations were eased.
-Money to buy handguns to shoot and fund bounties on lawyers.

The arts? I think they should be market-driven and self-supporting, including philanthropic endowments. It's long been that way; composers, painters, and others have had patrons for ages. If your art sucks, it will not feed you and you'll change it. We should all support our local buskers, and we'd be wise to heed this advice:

If thou of fortune be bereft,
And in thy store there be but two left
Two loaves-sell one, and with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.
- James Terry White