Nonprofit and Government Funding of the Arts
Copyright © by Norm Olson, 1/27/01
Over the past six months, Minnesota workers have, as usual been hit on by all kinds
of organizations that would like a piece of their paycheck pie. Personally, I would prefer to see government taking care of the needs of
the very old, the very young, the sick, the disenfranchised and the
dispossessed. But since we have chosen to leave huge rents in our social safety net, I suppose that the idea of
nonprofit private organizations being funded by tax exempt donations to help
those who cannot fend for themselves, is better than nothing.
In fact, I would guess that my more conservative fellow citizens sort of
like the idea that every homeless wretch should get a sermon with his soup.
Okay, I can accept the idea of nonprofit to help the vulnerable and to
educate the young, but, somebody please tell me why nonprofit applies to arts
organizations and even more why none of those mealy mouthed dipshits running for
public office have the guts to come out in opposition to government funding for,
or what could be more accurately called "government interference" with
No, I am not a follower of Jesse Helms. I have no problem with obscene, blasphemous art and I am all in favor of pornography. What I am opposed to is the unremittingly mediocre crap that the official nonprofit establishment supports. The for profit arts have brought the genius of a Kurt Cobain or a Bruce Springsteen while the nonprofit sector has given us the Wall of Bottles and the spoon with a cherry deal at Walker Art Center. The arts people talk about the “march of civilization” but the only thing that seems to march much in these arts funding deals is the taxpayers’ money which, likely as not, marches into the pockets of some New York fop brought into the benighted Midwest for a residency by the wannabe Knickerbockers at The Walker.
The NEA budget is only one hundred million bucks and, that is chump change to the billionaires who trade naps in the Lincoln bedroom for a little favor here and there. Besides, there are plenty of rich Republicans and Democrats both on the boards of modern art museums, municipal theaters and symphony orchestras around the country. Add the fact that being for art funding is seen by politicians as an uncontroversial way to pick up a few votes and the fact of public intimidation by the arts aristocrats and we have nobody left to question the nonprofit arts juggernaut. Remember, in the recent presidential election, about the only thing those two cretins agreed on was that the arts should be funded by the NEA. Besides, even I would rather see the government wasting money on bad art than building more smart bombs, billion dollar airplanes and Tomahawk missiles. At least crappy art doesn’t encourage expansionist demagogues or kill and maim the citizens of small central European countries. Still, it kind of bugs me that my tax money goes to the aesthetic dictators, funding their programs that have a goal of “educating” me so that I will docilely admit that the Wall of Bottles is not an annoying, insider hoax but really somehow important art. This is like me paying you to convince me that I am wrong.
I used to be more mellow about this whole deal and argue that places like The Walker Art Center could be somehow convinced to be more aesthetically open minded, but, I have given up. The whole nonprofit, publicly funded arts establishment is so bad for the arts, especially the visual arts which have been all but destroyed by the modernists, that I am all for dismantling the whole rotten structure. Nonprofit is doing far more harm than good to the visual arts by making art into an esoteric enterprise for the delectation of specialists only. On the other hand, if the arts organizations want to maintain their nonprofit designation, maybe they could start out by combining their artistic aspirations with a social agenda, giving Bush foundation grants only to winos, for example…
For now, I suggest to my fellow Minnesotans that, if you want to do your bit for humanity and contribute a few of your hard earned bucks to charity, pick one that helps the poor, the sick, the very young, the very old, the newly immigrated, the disenfranchised and/or the dispossessed; not one that provides New York art to the rich.
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