I recently read an article on Hyperallergic by William Powhida that asked “What good can political art do?” He discussed, briefly, the outward spewing of artists’ personal frustration and anger onto their medium of choice but also the buying and selling of high-end art for political and/or social benefit. He touched on the lack of funding for the arts as well, all in all, a lot of topics for a 5 paragraph article.
I have discussed politics and art a few times in various posts although typically when discussing particular digital composites because I tend to use that medium to address social issues. But there are a couple of blogs in which I’ve talked more directly about the link between the art and politics. I have also mentioned, at least once, a group that I am happy to be a part of which uses art as a way to resist Trump’s habitual lying, narcissistic tendencies, and soul-less administration. And while the sale of high-end art, specifically and expressly, to fund social justice programs is incredibly interesting and exciting it is still a pretty new phenomena (unlike donating art to a charity for an auction – that has been around forever) and therefore might just be a one-off.
Which leaves of course – funding for the arts. Now there are organizations who feel government funding of the arts is inappropriate, wasteful, and against the ideals set forth by the founders of the United States of America. In fact, one conservative think tank started by a beer heir even has a list of 10 reasons the U.S. government should stop arts funding. Virtually all of their reasons can be refuted by links found in this article which appeared in The Atlantic at the end of 2016. Trump proposed to eliminate the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) in 2018 but the Senate’s proposed budget actually increased the NEA’s funds. Who knows – perhaps the Senators believe if we are busy watching Russian ballerinas or a jazz band we won’t notice our neighbors dying due to lack of healthcare. In any case, even with the 2 million dollar budget increase the U.S. still spends was less (per capita) on the arts than other developed nations. And all that despite the financial, educational, and emotional benefits from the arts.
The financial element alone is huge. According to Americans for the Arts (the financial link above) the art industry facilitated the movement of over 166 billion dollars in 2015 (and generated over 27 billion in tax revenue). Some people bought products/experiences, some people sold product/experiences. And some people just sold hot dogs or water to other individuals wandering by the products/experiences and therefore were able to buy their kid a pair of sneakers, pay the electric bill, grab some food, get a haircut and finally see that blockbuster movie in 3-D at the theater with the profits. Art in addition to all it’s other attributes is a commodity, it has an out-sized impact on our wallets (and hearts and minds), and should be funded better than it has been for the last 30+ years.
However, if arts funding is someone’s only concern with the Trump administration they are a pretty lucky sod.