Funding the Arts

The American actor and artistic director for London’s Old Vic Theater, Kevin Spacey, gave an eloquent speech at the Kennedy Center on April 3rd in response to the GOP’s goal to cut all government funding of the arts. All of it.

And while a single fighter jet, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, costs as much as the entire budget of the NEA, the government plans on buying hundreds of the same. War is never fought for anything other than resources, yet a huge resource and export for almost every developed country is their Arts.

Even corporate management speak claims that it’s the people (stupid) who are any company’s greatest asset. Something about crushing arts and culture doesn’t ring quite true, does it?

The WPA of the 1930’s and ’40’s offered over 5,000 artists the opportunity to work at their craft and stay solvent. A mere $25 -30 a day was the pay scale. Just a fraction of these artists have brought increasing amounts of revenue to the country in later years: Milton Avery, Stuart Davis, Mark Rothko, Willem deKooning and Jackson Pollock. All achieved worldwide recognition, and all had significant impact on the arts in the US.

Mark Rothko, White Center, 1950. Private Collection. And in his 53rd Street studio in NYC. Courtesy National Gallery of Art.

Willem and Elaine de Kooning, 1953. Gift of the Estate of Hans Namuth. Courtesy National Portrait Gallery.

Jackson Pollock, Easter and the Totem. (Museum of Modern Art, 1953) Courtesy John Haber.

“Countries may go to war, but it’s culture that unites us.” From Kevin Spacey speaking at Arts Advocacy Day.

From the LA Times: Among the proposed cuts in the federal budget is $40 million for an arts education program. Funding for the nation’s three main cultural grantmaking agencies — the NEA, National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services – would fall about 13.3% under the proposed federal budget.

Arts funding is also under attack by several Republican politicians, including Sarah Palin, who recently called such expenditures “frivolous.”

From the Washington Examiner: Robert Lynch, president of the lobbying group Americans for the Arts, said many new lawmakers in a rush to cut budgets fail to see the jobs and economic boost that arts organizations provide as small businesses. The $166 billion nonprofit arts sector includes 5.7 million jobs and generates nearly $30 billion in tax revenue, he said.

“We are not a poor country. We are a wealthy country, but our real power comes from the power of our ideas,” he said “This is not about saving money. This is ideological.”

Spacey also has publicly opposed a recently announced 30 percent cut to arts funding in Britain, where he serves as artistic director of London’s Old Vic Theatre. He said the cuts taking full effect by 2015 would devastate hundreds of arts groups.

The British government should change its tax laws, Spacey said, and use the U.S. model of providing tax breaks for charitable donations to help fill the gap left by cuts in public funding.

Some of his lines from the MSNBC video that will not load on my blog, but is especially worth seeing for Spacey’s way with words:

Art and creativity is one of the most significant ways that humanity lifts itself out of hatred, intolerance and cruelty.

We should be just as patriotic about the arts as we are about any other program.

And from Lehigh University’s ArtsLehigh blog, these quotes:

The creative industries is this nation’s more powerful national resource. Economic downturn will be felt for years, arts cuts or not. We still need to act. Now.

A Huffington Post article recalls Spacey’s entreaty to keep kids engaged in the arts – his own start began during a theater workshop led by the great Jack Lemmon. Lemmon encouraged the 13 year old Spacey and the rest is history.

Theatre creates a sense of family, learn to collaborate, whether or not they have a career interest in the arts. He shared a trailer of a documentary premier at TriBeCa film festival next. “Shakespeare High”

During the Second World War, Winston Churchill’s finance minister said Britain should cut arts funding to support the war effort. Churchill’s response: “Then what are we fighting for?”

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2 Responses to Funding the Arts

  1. laura says:

    Magnificent post Victoria. You said it perfectly.

  2. Victoria says:

    Thanks Laura – this is mostly derived from other blogs and newspaper articles. Spacey deserves all the credit, he’s a great spokesperson for the arts.

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