Arts Under Assault: 3 Reasons the NEA is Necessary

The current House Appropriations Bill--unsurprisingly in this climate of  "austerity" and cultural conservatism--contains some bad news for arts funding.

Here are the details from "Americans for the Arts:"

The House of Representatives will soon take up the FY 2012 Interior Appropriations Bill that contains a $20 million cut in funding to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). If enacted, this would be the deepest cut to the NEA in 16 years.  Send a message to your member of Congress to register your concerns about this cut today!

Sometimes, even people on the Left think arts funding is frivolous. Actually, such funding integral to a sane social framework.

Here are three quick reasons government-sponsored art can be beneficial to a progressive vision of society. And believe me, the below ideas are only the tip of the iceberg.

1-It helps people from diverse backgrounds such as the young, ethnic and cultural minorities, those from disadvantaged economic situation-- who might not have the privilege to, say, go to a fancy college and rely on their connections--pursue alternative paths and make art that reflects their vital vision of the world.

2-It funds "serious" art which encourages serious dialogue about serious issues. If you're concerned that reality tv and other frothy pop creations are dominating the discourse, then think about the fact that government-backed arts programs can really provide the impetus and the resources which allow a variety of viewpoints and more sober or eclectic art forms to flourish--not to mention art that is critical of the status quo and might be deemed too edgy or serious for commercial purposes.

3-It promotes a positive image of a country around the world. America's cultural output has long been our best ambassador to the globe. Good art helps bridge divides--it's easy to talk about film and music with others despite language and cultural barriers.

On a lighter note, just think about catchy Swedish groups like ABBA and how much they've helped make the world a better place to dance in. Did you know that Sweden has a culture ministry that spends serious time and money looking for the next ABBA, the art that will best represent Sweden to the world (as well as striving for diversity, heritage and equality within Swedish culture)? Tell me that's not kind of awesome.

So if you're convinced, or you're just sick of budget-slashing mania, over and sign the petition to remind lawmakers that arts funding is a serious priority. 

To paraphrase a friend on Facebook (who happens to be a poet), imagine a society in which we put music, theater, poetry and creative expression before foreign wars and ugly legislative battles siphoning away our rights. Imagine the biggest arguments about values we had were about what type of art we personally valued, not whether or not our government valued our fellow citizens. That's what arts funding in its most idealized form is all about.

Feel free to leave your own opinions about arts funding in the comments below.

AlterNet / By Sarah Seltzer

Posted at July 23, 2011, 5:26am

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