Art Thou With Us?

We had a surprisingly intelligent discussion about the arts here last week (sorry, Ted End: we lost you), started off by an innocuous toss-off line about Abraham Lincoln:

Lincoln was killed by an actor while watching a play.  Ever since, the Republican party has been hostile to the arts, repeatedly attempting to kill appropriations for the National Endowment for the Arts.  (They’re at it again right now, as you read this: there’s a $50 million allocation at stake.)

apollo_rommusagetlgBy the end of the week, those 50 million iron men were back in the bill, but only after the Senate backed off an amendment authored by Ron Coburn, an Okie ‘Pub, ruling out stimulus money for museums, arts centers, and theaters.  (Confirming his Village Idiot credentials, he also included golf courses and casinos.  All the same to him, hee-yuk).  The “Statement of Purpose” of the amendment was “To ensure that taxpayer money is not lost on wasteful and non-stimulative projects.”  It passed 73 – 24, with every ‘Pub in the Senate voted in its favor.  Lincoln’s assassination avenged.

Smarter, more informed Senators shit-canned this craptacular statement and amendment in the final round.  Armed with statistics, arts advocates demonstrated that the arts are in fact engines of economic development, providing jobs to unemployed workers while also encouraging other spending and tourism. Rep. Louise Slaughter, the NY Dem who co-chairs the Congressional Arts Caucus, noted “We had the facts on our side.”

Aaah.  Facts.  When it comes to matters like this, ‘Pubs resent facts, and prefer to whip up their base with equal parts of sanctimony and feigned outrage.  Arts workers — that’s a larger class then “artists” — are suffering about a 12.5% unemployment rate, which means they’re losing their savings, cars, health care, and houses the same as laid-off construction workers and middle managers.  When the arts shrivel, the industries and businesses that support and prosper with them shrink as well —  restaurants, motels,  laundries, schools, arts & crafts suppliers, retail, etc.

AmericansForTheArts.org claims that 5.7 million people are employed in the arts; that the arts occupy a $166 billion chunk of our economy; that the arts generate almost $30 billion in taxes.

But that’s not the way most ‘Pubs see it at all.  Last week’s most prominent Neanderthal was Rep Jack Kingston, a GA ‘Pub, who told the Congressional Quarterly, “I just think putting people to work is more important than putting more art on the wall of some New York City gallery frequented by the elite art community.”  Like that?  Buzzwords: The “elite art community.”   He described arts as “the favorite of the left.”  Yeah, not to mention their record of assassinating ‘Pub presidents.

Amusingly, it was pointed out that in Kingston’s own district there are 778 arts-related businesses employing 2,663 people.  However, they’re all dangerous moonbats whose idea of culture is painting pictures that denigrate Christian values, music that extols drug usage,  and films that encourage kids to graffiti schoolyard walls.

Politics aside — or perhaps it’s psychology: what is it about the arts that makes Wingnut Nation so nervous? —  what sorts of things get counted as art when Federal money is mixed into the equation?  Or should we ignore that element, and concentrate on what counts as art simpliciter?  Why are certain subjects off-limits?  Why do some wingnuts scream like stuck weenies about liberals’ stifling free expression with “political correctness,” but lather up in defense of censorship when it comes to the arts?

It’s art.  Is all.

Numerous quotes and stats in this post came from this News Corpse and the NY Times.

This entry was posted in Gen. Snark, Maj. Snafu, Corp. Punishment. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Art Thou With Us?

  1. Piles says:

    Wow, it’s almost 10 o’clock and nobody’s taken the bait yet.

    I think the answer is what I wrote before, which is that most conservatives are uncomfortable with the arts because so often the arts inspire change, non-conformity, looking at the world differently, etc. Conservatives are slow to change, they want to keep things as they are. You know, conserve.

    Still, I doubt opera houses fill up with lefty radicals. I really don’t know. But that’s an old, established art form whose beginning and end has been on view for centuries. Its easy to see how conservative individuals can relate to it.

  2. Ray Ed Gneck says:

    It’s idiotic to say “conservatives are hostile to the arts.” There’s a war on, the economy is trashed, people are losing their jobs and houses, the government wants our guns, and you want to spend 50 million on ballet classes and artsy fartsy festivals where people look at soup can labels and blasphemous pictures of the Virgin Mary. Maybe conservatives just have a better idea about what’s important and what isn’t.

  3. cara says:

    Personally Piles, I would disagree with you on the uncomfortable theory. I think it is a business decision, based on stereotypes.
    Obviously, in business (and pols suposedly are in the business of running this country) you cut the fat. The stereotype that arts aren’t guaranteed wage earners is feeding this misconception.
    I’m not saying this is right. I don’t think politicians look too deep into their motives. Their glance stops at their campaign accounts.

  4. Hose B says:

    Cara: But why does this line up so ideologically separated? Why do conservative politicians oppose arts support while liberals support it?

    Last week somebody pointed out that government funds can end up supporting really offensive art, and that conservatives use that to whip up their base. Look at Kingston’s crack about “the elite.” It’s just another piece of rotten fruit they like to throw out of their cage to keep the zoo hopping.

  5. cara says:

    Hose: That is party line stance. I bet if we could look at these guys finances, we would find alot of hypocrisy. You would find Dems who don’t waste a personal dime on arts and Pubs who donate/enjoy freely.

    But that doesn’t matter when they are part of a machine based on ideology to keep their jobs.

    I’m not really liking ANY politician these days.

  6. Ruh Roh says:

    I think Cara’s right about what they (pols) do privately w/r/t arts and donations. It goes back to Squattle’s question, sort of, which is Why does it shake out this way, with conservatives staunchly opposed and liberals in favor? What is it about the cultural that makes it political?

    Hey I like that.

  7. Agustin R. Farinas says:

    Suqatty,
    is nice when you can get people to compare the operas of Puccini for example, with the disgusting pornographic garbage that Serrano and Mapplethorpe were passing as art. I certainly do not see any reedeming value in the trash either of those two individuals call art. But is a good try anyway.
    It is not an issue of right or left, because I doubt if you can find many extreme leftist or extreme right wingers listening to Tosca at the Metropolitan New York Opera House. But when the NEA gives money to that kind of filth and disgusting trash that passes for art, is when people complain about the use of its funds to finance it.
    I would like to hear the opinion of those who applaud and admire the Mapplethorpe and Serrano’s art if I was to defecate on Obama’s photograph then take several photos of it, frame them, and have an exhibition and call it art. I would call it Obama in poop.
    The howling from the leftists would be heard all the way to Alaska. Hey,after all is my vision of what art should be, and who is to say it is not art.

  8. Fly Guy says:

    Sr Farinas: I’ve seen photo exhibitions of both Mapplethorpe and Serrano, and liked the work of both, especially Mapplethorpe’s studies of black and white males which I found moving and expressive.

    I know people (some artsist, some not) who saw the same exhibitions, and some agree, some disagree. That’s the nature of art.

    Labeling any art “disgusting trash” is no more meaningful than saying you don’t like it. As an artist, I find it also usually means “I don’t understand it.”

    I don’t know what your point is about Obama in Poop. If executed well, it might be an effective social statement. If leftists or anybody else howled in protest, it only means they’re unaware of what art is, and the art itself was successful.

    I agree completely with your last statement (Who is to say what is and what is not art) and only hope that someday you yourself will too.

  9. Piles says:

    But it’s back to the same question, isn’t it which is Why do Pubs complain about the NEA and not Dems? You won’t find a liberal Dem making a statement like the Kingston’s ever.

    Maybe they’re just thinner-skinned. They howl to the moon when anybody burns a flag, even if they don’t care about passing laws that crush free speech.

  10. Living Will says:

    The REAL elitists in this game are guys like Farinas who have no problem dismissing artists they dislike as porno crap while never entertaining a doubt about Puccini operas. Who says the opera isn’t crap? Who gets to decide what counts as good or bad art? Self-proclaimed gifted elitists among us?

  11. Mark Skidd says:

    Ditto Will. I love music and theater, but I wouldn’t see an opera at gunpoint. I love guns, too.

  12. Agustin R. Farinas says:

    Folks,
    Puccini and the opera has survided hundreds of years;however I seriously doubt if the crap that you call art from Mapplethorpe or Serrano did will do the same one hundred years hence.
    When you say that you would not sit through an opera for 1 minute while praising Serrano and Mapplethorpe it shows me a lot about your artistic appreciation, but then I already had figured it out judging from your appreciation of Serrano’s Christ in Piss. Now that is a great work of art, but not the “trash music” from Verdi or Puccini. But that is what makes the world go around, I guess. Those who think that photographs of Sado- masochistic males dressed in leathers are art and others that think opera is good for the soul and is real music. I just happen to fall into the last category of the ones who love opera and classical music.
    BTW, I think hip-hop is garbage too, in case you missed that one.

  13. Piles says:

    Here’s your own argument from last week, Augustin:

    Jeffrey Dahmer remains well known and controversial too. So, do we need to enjoy eating human flesh because it will be known and controversial 20 years hence?

    I thought that was off-point when you wrote it, because you’re comparing apples to oranges (works of art to non-art activity). But here you are using it this time to defend art. Based on your own argument., cannibalism has been around for hundreds of years, too, just like opera. That’s no argument.

    I think Living Will might be right: you’re being an elitist by dismissing something as not even being art simply because you don’t see its value. That’s different from saying it’s bad, tasteless, offensive, and even blasphemous. All of these apply to art.

  14. Agustin R. Farinas says:

    Piles,
    the mere fact that you can mix in the same paragraph opera with Serrano or Mapplethorpe, tells me a great deal about yourself. But the greatness of a democracy is that we do not have to share the same artistic taste (Thank God for that) nor are we condemned to have to view it either. I will leave you alone with your admiration for those two “great artists” and I will humbly remain a fan of the likes of Puccini and Verdi. To each his own. I have never been a big fan of black leathers anyway.

  15. Fran G'Panni says:

    Not a fan of black leather, Agustin? You don’t know what you’re missing. Purrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

  16. One Man's Opinion says:

    Well Squatty…once again you get a good conversation going! I’m thinking maybe I should join in. So here goes.

    Hey, people, ART is good for the soul, period! And as pointed out, it’s good for business. But remember, art IS in the eye of the beholder. As such it never fails to amaze me how quickly people will condemn any art-form that they don’t happen to like or understand. Yeah some operas are great and enjoyable, but many are not, IMHO. As for Hip-Hop, I feel the same way; I like the rythmn of most of it, however most of the lyrics leave me cold. And porn…what of porn? Well not everything that titalates or incites sensuality is porn….not that there is anything wrong with porn. After all look at Michael Angelo’s David; a rendition and display of manhood at it’s finest. For me the only thing that would make it better is if his (David’s) manhood was sporting a boner, displaying an un-sheathed “head”, instead of a sheathed, limp member. Does that mean I have any greater or lesser say in what is art. I think not. Art is meant to inspire, incite and intergrate reality with imagination. You don’t have to like (or understand) it all. You only have to appreciate what turns you on, boycot what you don’t like and, most of all, respect that those who have differant tastes than you still have the same rights to enjoy what they like.

    So….basically….all I really want to say to all you art elitest out is….Get Over It!

  17. cara says:

    I enjoy the discussions and disagreement’s over art. The whole point is to open your mind and think a bit deeper, isn’t it?

    Even if the opponents will never see eye-to-eye, those who are privy to their disagreement tend to learn a little bit more about the world we inhabit.

    The dialogue can be as eye opening and introspective as the art itself.

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