But Other Than Being Shot to Death, Mr. Lincoln, How Did You Like the Play?

A couple of weeks back in early April, Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews to talk about the pressing need for federal funding of the arts (click above to watch). Matthews leads off by noting that a group of knuckle-dragging Republicans have been trying to put the kibosh on the $167 million or thereabouts that goes to the National Endowment for the Arts and the $450 million that goes to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (proud sponsors of NPR and PBS).

Matthews says:

I wish I had you as a professor [...at the Kennedy Center you gave...] 40-some minutes of splendid explanation of why the arts are so important in our country, no matter what the budget problems are. I now give you the floor, sir, because I think we haven't argued this yet. Why are the Republicans trying to kill the arts?

Let's leave aside the ridiculous equation of cutting federal funding of the arts with the "killing" thereof. Does Matthews seriously belive that state-sanctioned art (or in the case of PBS and NPR, news reporting) is an unambiguous good and that the $13 billion "performing arts" industry or the $2,800 per capita Americans spend annually on entertainment would disappear or even be seriously affected by replacing public money with private philanthropy? (Go here for entertainment-expenditure data, tables 1227 and 1231.)

Here's Spacey's gist. He had spoken the night before at the Kennedy Center on the importance of the arts and he tried to tie into the anniversary of the start of the Civil War because, well, it provides such a compelling case:

I mean, you go back through the -- the huge swath of extraordinary leadership we`ve had on this issue, really from Lincoln, you know. I think I mentioned last night that a lot of people, of course, know about the tragic death of President Lincoln at a theater. But we know little how much he actually attended the theater during his presidency. And the worst days of the Civil War, he attended the theater constantly because Lincoln understood that he needed the arts to replenish his soul. He craved for poetry.

It may have taken us 150 or so years, but here we are at long last: a new variation on one of the great black-humor jokes of all time. "Other than that Mr. President, how did you like the play?" Is it wrong to point out that, er, it was an actor who killed the president? And that the play he was watching, Our American Cousin, was just one more Brit product whose protagonist was an ugly American type (because it's funny...and true...and the English are so...classy)?

Spacey's confusion isn't limited to unintentional comedy. He buys into precisely the model of culture as a Cross Your Heart Bra (plenty of uplift and posture-building) that mistakes culture's primary function as didactic.

And so, I tried last night to -- in the Nancy Hanks lecture, to make an argument about embracing arts and culture. It, in my opinion, is the most important export that we exchange around the world. Countries may go to war, but it's culture that unites us. It educates us. It teaches us to be better.

As I wrote back in 1996, this understanding of culture is shared by conservative and liberal critics of popular entertainment alike and explains why they're always fighting to control it and its messages. In this view, 

...culture can undermine (or, implicitly, ennoble) our character; movies can poison (or save) our souls. There is no sense that the ticket-buying public might have a say in the matter, that we might be responsible for our own damnation.... Scratch the surface and everyone from Bill Clinton to Charlton Heston, Newt Gingrich to Chevy Chase, Janet Reno to Sally Field, agrees: Movies, music, and TV should be the moral equivalent of a high colonic, Sunday school every damn day of the week.

I highly recommend Joli Jensen's 2003 book Is Art Good for Us?, which makes a powerful distinction between what she calls an "instrumental view of culture" -- that good art makes us good and bad art makes us bad -- and champions an "expressive view of culture" -- that art is a way that people connect with and explore their place in the world. Here's a snippet from a Reason interview with her:

Q: Why do so many people hold an instrumental view of culture?

A: People like to look for simple causes and simple cures. That view is very tempting because if certain kinds of culture cause bad things in society, then you can change that culture and fix society. There's an assumption that art is an instrument like medicine or a toxin that can be injected into us and transform us. But there's very little evidence of a direct effect, and we all participate in creating the meaning of a particular piece of work. We should always be considerate about how we choose to tell stories and the stories we choose to tell. That's an ongoing cultural conversation, but I mistrust attempts to control that conversation by excluding a priori categories of stories or by assuming that the stories we are telling are harming us.

Q: If the arts aren't medicine, what are they?

A: They're expressions of creative intellectual energy. This is related to John Dewey's understanding of culture as a way that all of us, even those of us who are not in a special guardian class, understand and symbolically engage the world. I also question the distinction we constantly try to make between the arts and popular culture and other forms of creative expression such as architecture, park design, gardening, and the like.

More here.

I was on WNYC's On The Media show not long ago, talking about defunding NPR and the arts here.

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  • Zombie Lincoln||

    And the worst days of the Civil War, he attended the theater constantly because Lincoln understood that he needed the arts to replenish his soul. He craved for poetry.

    Poetry? Shit no. I craved having a general drunk enough to actually fight.

  • Joh[nn]y Lo[n]gtorso||

    The Golden Girls are art. Just sayin'.

  • ||

    Yes, but is it art that [POISONS] or heals us?

  • anarch||

    Countries may go to war, but it's culture trade that unites us.

    *Sigh.*

  • db||

    This probably cannot be overstated. "culture," throughout human history, has been the single dividing factor between human civilizations, and especially between subgroups of civilizations.

    What Spacey really means is that monoculture unites those who share it. While he probably doesn't realize it, he is prescribing a future defined by a lack of innovation in arts and letters, simply because their goal has been redefined down from expression of individuals' relation with their societies to monolithic unification under some imagined culture that doesn't disagree with anything, at least not enough to cause tension between people.

    Trade, on the other hand, has had a very good track record throughout the centuries as a uniter of civilizations, allowing them to tie their physical well-being together while maintaining their unique views on the world. Some wars have been fought over trade routes, but those conflicts epitomize the antithesis of trade, not condemn it.

  • ||

    It is pretty damned funny for Matthews to say "culture unites us". I don't write the history books I just read them. But I have always thought that culture was one of the biggest drivers of war and especially genocide. You don't decide to start putting your enemies in ovens over a trade dispute. That takes a certain kind of cultural hatred.

  • ||

    You don't decide to start putting your enemies in ovens over a trade dispute.

    What about the poor Naboo?

  • ||

    I never saw the last two Star Wars movies and actually had to google that. I thought you were talking about real people (some indiginous tribe I had never heard about before) there SF.

  • Wind Rider||

    You should be made to fellatiate Jar Jar Binks for bringing that up

  • ||

    "Yousa saysa peepul gonna diiiiie?"

    I find it hard to believe they were restrained enough to not show Jar-Jar eating a big space watermelon or chowing down on some space fried chicken. Or have the hook-nosed Jew-bug/frog set down to Seder. Not to mention the sneaky Japs in orbit.

    That movie was fucked up.

  • ||

    I thought it was the sneaky chinks in orbit. That movie came out right after the Chinese captured that American reconosence plane. Chink baiting was at it height.

  • ||

    The accent was more distinctly Japanese to most people. Of course, given the subtly of characterization Lucas displayed, he probably thought his racist caricature of the Chinese was OK as long as he gave them Japanese accents.

  • Imperial Galatic Democrat||

    I never noticed that Jar Jar had any appreciable negro dialect.

  • ||

    And he was uncommonly clean and well spoken.

  • The Ears||

    Don't forget us!

  • Tim||

    Joe Biden wanted to make him Secretary of the Treasury.

  • Tim||

    Was it ever.

  • [J[o]h[nn]y] L[[o][n]]gt[o]rs[||

    Compare and contrast Jar Jar to the Ferengi in Star Trek for objectionable ethnic stereotyping.

    Go.

  • ||

    Considering that the only ST franchise I did not watch in its entirety was DS9, my Ferengi-fu is weak.

  • ||

    I'm watching TNG on DVD now. I think I've seen most of the episodes, but not all of them and not all of each episode. Figured I'd catch up.

    Did the same thing with DS9 and Enterprise a while back. The latter wasn't so good until the last season (last episode sucked, though), but I liked DS9 well enough. It's uneven at times, but some episodes were very good.

  • Rob||

    The correct term is fellatiate? I always thought it was just "fellate". Huh.

  • Neu Mejican||

    I think DS9 holds its own against any of the ST series. Never understood why it doesn't show back up in syndication.

  • Really? ||

    DS9 is hands-down my favorite.

    Quark: You're overlooking something. Humans used to be a lot worse than the Ferengi: slavery, concentration camps, interstellar wars. We have nothing in our past that approaches that kind of barbarism. You see? We're nothing like you... we're better.
  • Really? ||

    Maybe I am missing it, but I am having a hard time coming up with what stereotype Ferengi fit.

  • ||

    All the Star Trek series will be on Netflix for streaming in October/November.

  • ||

    And to complete the Godwin, you know who else supported public funding of the arts?

  • Tim||

    Jabba the Hut?

  • [J[o]h[nn]y] L[[o][n]]gt[o]rs[||

    Only if Leia in the metal bikini was put on display in a public museum.

  • ||

    Matthews leads off by noting that a group of knuckle-dragging Republicans have been trying to put the kibosh on the $167 million or thereabouts that goes to the National Endowment for the Arts and the $450 million that goes to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (proud sponsors of NPR and PBS).

    While not disagreeing with the need to kill these funding programs, why in the fuck did the Stupid Party have to go all Kulture War during the opening rounds of budget talks? Couldn't they have limited themselves to programs that most people could agree on that we needed to cut or elimnate and after you get the low-hanging fruit out of the way then they could go about polishing their armor for the fight for good, wholesome, conservative entertainment? But NooOOOOoooo.

    The Evil Party is no better, fighting tooth and nail for every, single penny as absolutely, positively necessary for the health of the nation. Going back to 2000 budget levels will only release the rape gangs to roam the streets. Don't you remember the brink of collapse that the violent anarchy of the Clinton years brought us to?

    There's never a good and hard pox around in DC when you need one.

  • ||

    I agree with you to some extent. But the problem is that for Democrats government and spending is always a culture issue. There isn't a domestic program going that Democrats won't turn into a us against them culture issue. Try to end agriculture subsidies and you are killing the family farmer. Try to end rural electrification and you are damning the poor to live in the 19th century. And so on and so forth. Given that, it doesn't really matter what the Republicans choose to cut. The Democratic reaction will be the same.

  • ||

    Yes, but if you really want to polarize the Dem base, start talking about zeroing out NPR and Planned Parenthood. It's like the Repubs sat down and said, "OK, what are the 2 things that we shouldn't talk about at all?" And then they went did exactly that.

    I mean, all the wailing and garment rending going on in my Facebook list, holy fuck. You'd think they were opening fire on protesters.

    And why in the fuck is PP getting federal funds anyway? Aren't they a 501c3?

  • ||

    JW,

    I would like to believe that the people wailing and moaning on facebook were capable of having a rational conversation about spending and that there are some non defense programs Republicans could cut without them wailing and moaning. But I doubt that is the case.

  • ||

    You'd think that, but I don't even bother. I have no need for the glandular epistemology sessions and no one will walk away persuaded.

    I just hide the posts and if they're too wretched, I just block/unfriend the person altogether.

  • ||

    And if you don't cut it now, but talk like you might cut it later, you're also damning us all to a somalic hell.

  • Jerry||

    Because the GOP doesn't want to talk (and isn't serious) about cuts to Social Security, Medicare or the Defense Department?

  • ||

    See Nancy Pelosi...you don't have to cut any of those programs for her to damn you for cutting those programs.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Couldn't they have limited themselves to programs that most people could agree on that we needed to cut or elimnate...

    How about listing 10 or so of these programs?

  • ||

    Sorry, no time to read the Federales budget. I have no problem in believing that people, whose job this is, can find more than 10.

  • cynical||

    But the culture shit -is- low hanging fruit. Cut Medicare, and people might realistically believe it will substantially affect someone's health. Art is more of a luxury, and government funding thereof is not extensive enough to threaten art itself anyway.

  • Tim||

    The Gubmint should have a 1% income tax surcharge on all Hollywood salaries to support the Arts.

  • Arcaster||

    Brilliant. Let those bastards pay for it if it means so much to them.

  • Tim||

    Spacey? Where's Spacey? Anyone, anyone?

  • Neu Mejican||

    The Gubmint should have a 1% income tax surcharge on all Hollywood salaries to support the Arts.

    I think you will find wide support among these folks for the ending of the Bush tax cuts, so...

  • cynical||

    So long as the government takes donations, we can assume this means they want a tax on other people. A tax on them wouldn't really work.

  • ||

    Demanding government funding for the arts feeds people like Spacey and Matthews' egos. The reality that the country has thanks to technology and wealth access to fine arts undreamed of by are ancestors conflicts with their view of the American people as uncivilized dolts. In their view art would die without the government because there are not enough elites like them to keep it alive. Only by forcing the dolts to support it through taxes can art stay alive. The whole thing is just one big elitist fantasy.

  • Tim||

    I saw Superman Returns and I'm pretty certain Spacey knows nothing about art.

  • Cosmotarian Douche||

    KULTUR WAR!!!

  • Paleotarian Cretin||

    GOD AND GAYS!!!

  • dhex||

    We don't need to fund the arts, in fact, the kinds of artists that get federal funding are usually too untalented and bizarre to make it in the private sector.

    like ballets and orchestras. they should prance on their own dime.

  • Neu Mejican||

    he kinds of artists that get federal funding are usually too untalented and bizarre to make it in the private sector

    This seems way off the mark to me. While the poster-boys for cutting funding fit this caricature, it seems far more common for public funds to go towards less than challenging milquetoast projects. That said, lots of good art gets public funding and lots of the public funding for art goes to education.

  • skr||

    The only way good art gets supported is if money is given to a museum with a good curator and then buys good art with that money. Other than that, those who get supported are those that are more adept at writing grant proposals than making art.

  • Neu Mejican||

    those who get supported are those that are more adept at writing grant proposals than making art.

    This is true for artists that are individuals rather than organizations. But most commercially successful artists have people who work for them to secure funding. In a sense, grants are more likely to go to those artists that have already established the ability to be successful in the market. The correlation between quality and grants funding is, I would posit, as loose as the correlation between quality and commercial success.

  • skr||

    The most part is simply untrue. Sure it's true for people like Koons and Hirst, but the vast majority of commercially successful artists don't operate like that. They couldn't possibly as there margins wouldn't allow it. I know a lot of successful artists and my GF used to be manager of a major gallery in LA.

  • Neu Mejican||

    The most part is simply untrue.

    It feels like you are restricting your view here to painting/sculpture. I know many successful artists in a variety of fields and it seems that most who are successful have, at least, a manager to help them secure work. And many forms of art are not produced by individuals, but by organizations. The successful ones have people who focus on funding.

  • skr||

    I think the correlation between "longterm" commercial success and quality is fairly strong.

  • Neu Mejican||

    I disagree.

  • Bee Tagger||

    Just think, with more funding for the arts we could have paid people to see Beyond the Sea.

  • Otto||

    At first, I thought you were talking about this documentary.

    I'm a little slow today.

  • ||

    The government is not funding "art". They are funding the administration of art. In other words, bureaucrats. These almost always are loons who often promote risible works that "challenge" us, etc. Ergo, Piss Christ, Elephant Dung Madonna, and so on. That is what drives many Republicans nuts. And of course, it allows the Democrats, most of whom couldn't give two shits about art, to look down their noses at the "rubes".

  • Rich||

    I always hear "Other than *that*, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?" Makes more sense. Funnier.

    Other than *that*, Nick, nice post. "Art" is important to some people, who find it replenishes their souls, while "booze" does it for others. Neither should be funded with tax dollars.

  • JoshINHB||

    There's an assumption that art is an instrument like medicine or a toxin that can be injected into us and transform us. But there's very little evidence of a direct effect...

    There's plenty of evidence of an indirect effect though.

    Popular culture is seeped in authority worship and socialist themes. Do you really think that has no effect on the general public's views of freedom?

  • chaussures air max||

    thank you

  • Heir Jordan||

    Who are you and what do you want?

  • JohnD||

    Spacey and Matthews racing to prove which is the most stupid.

  • ||

    "Liking both Marvin Gaye and Art Garfunkel is like supporting both the Israelis and the Palestinians. " -- Actual Fund for the Arts Quote*

    *Rob Gordon

  • Pinnochio||

    I like "It's a Small World, After All."

  • ||

    Great. I like both.

  • Really? ||

    Would you rather live in Gaza, or on the 59th Street Bridge?

  • Fatwa Issuer||

    "Countries may go to war, but it's culture that unites us. It educates us. It teaches us to be better."

    If it's the proper culture, of course.

  • CELEBRATE 4/20||

    BUT DID HE LIEK THE PLAY?

  • Madame Olivia||

    Cross my palm with silver ...

  • Me||

    What is art, without starving artists? It is their general suffering that contributes to the quality of their work. All real artists are either destitute, mentally disturbed, fucked up on drugs, or any combination thereof. For the government to actively promote these people is to advocate their conditions.

    Personally, I would have no problem contributing a couple hits of mescaline to an artist. However, I do not feel it is the role of government to support such immoral behaviors. I also wouldn't have a problem withholding certain medications from an artist with a mental illness. Does that make me a bad person?

  • Rich||

    I also wouldn't have a problem withholding certain medications from an artist with a mental illness. Does that make me a bad person?

    Please stick to the topic: Is that *art*?

  • db||

    I don't know if it's Art...but I like it!

  • Me||

    Believe it or not, the question of withholding meds from an artist was actually discussed on NPR. However, you might end up with something like this:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new.....event.html

  • skr||

    You are so hopelessly wrong I weep for your stupidity and ignorance.

  • Me||

    You must be one of those graphic artists that thinks he's a real artist. If you can make a living at it, you're not really an artist. Duh.

  • ||

    In the past, the wealthy patronized art, not so much the government. Yes, a number of those wealthy controlled or influenced the government, but the decision to fund art was a personal decision, not an institutional one.

    In other words, there's no inherent need to have government fund art, and the results of such institutionalization of art have been unimpressive, to say the least. What people on the left want, really, is to avoid having art being subsidized primarily by rich people and corporations or dictated by bourgeois market values. Only the truly delusional think that art will die without public funding.

    Another thing--government funding almost certainly distorts wildly the cost of art, which makes it less, not more, accessible to most of us.

  • ||

    The wealthy still patronize the arts. Its those mediocre artists that need the government infusion. We must destroy mediocrity!

  • Neu Mejican||

    In the past, the wealthy patronized art, not so much the government.

    I don't think this holds water. The past is full of government patronage for the arts. A long, long, long tradition world wide.

  • skr||

    Except that for the most part, the governments in question were monarchies of rich people afrandizing themselves or supplicating at the feet of their sky god.

  • skr||

    Aggrandize

  • Mallet Diction||

    Except that for the most part, the governments in question were monarchies

    Yes, that is true for much of the history of government. Variations on "monarchy" dominate the history of government. But, of course, the Greeks had lots of public art during periods that would not fit that model.

  • ||

    back then the wealthy were the government. some things never change.

  • ||

    Sorry, but that's not the case. The Medici, for instance, funded the arts themselves. As did other leading Florentine families. In other times and countries, you can see the evidence in the fact that art patronage varied from one monarch to another. And the nobility funding arts outside of the monarchy are rich people funding arts, not government doing so.

    The whole idea of patronage, historically, has been that of building up a group of clients who support you, politically and otherwise. In other words, it was a personal relationship, not "public" funding.

    This is not to say that no government has ever in history provided regular funding for the arts, of course.

  • skr||

    Surely the Medici didn't use their government positions to extract rent from the citizenry. We aren't talking about name only aristocracy but aristocracy that held land, serfs, and real power. Sure it's not the government of the modern nation-state but they were along with other families, the law.

  • skr||

    If you want a renaissance patronage model based more on the individual without all the mucking about by the holy roman empire, I would look to the Dutch. They were better painters anyway.

  • ||

    I'm just saying that patronage in the past wasn't what it is today. If money was handed out, it was based on the tastes of those doing the funding. In essence, wealthy people funded art they liked.

  • skr||

    I'll agree with that

  • skr||

    As long as you are comparing government patronage types. The wealthy of today also fund art they like. There is still individual patronage and it has brought of the likes of Picasso, Rothko, and Pollock as I point out below.

  • ||

    No doubt. If I had the means, I'd commission my own artwork, too. Don't see any use to the government-funded stuff, particularly when so much of it is substandard crap. Not all of it--I've known some artists who've gladly accepted the funding--but too much of it for what it costs. I think easy money tends to dilute the quality of the population of those who call themselves "artists."

  • JD||

    There's also a long tradition worldwide for government patronage of religion, but nobody's arguing for federal grants to churches.

  • cynical||

    Before that, it was the Church. FWIW.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Before that, it was the Church. FWIW.

    I don't think "before that" is accurate. They both have funded art as long as they have existed.

  • ||

    The Church was really a consumer of arts, using art to deliver and/or reinforce a religious message. In a way, it's akin to corporations spending money on art in advertising.

  • skr||

    Except for the whole death for blasphemy thingy

  • skr||

    The guilds sucking up to the church but having visual clues in the painting as to where the funding came from is a more accurate comparison to corporate advertising.

  • skr||

    The church was more like the mafia. A representative would hit up the guilds for "donations". "what can we put you down for an antechamber? Just a triptych? It would be a shame if something happened to that trade route or your eternal souls."

  • db||

    So you'll be an Austrian nobleman
    Commissioning a symphony in C
    Which defies all earthly descriptions
    You'll be commissioning a symphony in C

    With money you squeeze from the peasants
    To your nephew you will give it as a present
    This magnificent symphony in C
    You'll be commissioning a symphony in C
    ...

  • skr||

    You made that point much better than i

  • db||

    The point I (though probably not the original author of that) was making is that all public funding of the arts is immoral, as it first relies upon theft.

  • skr||

    I also think it makes the point that just because your aristocratic title doesn't happen to be king, you're not just some rich guy.

  • ||

    Thats a pretty funny question dude.

    www.total-privacy.int.tc

  • Abdul||

    There's an old garrison keilor skit where he pretends to be Gov. Jesse Ventura explaining why he cut Minnesota's art funding: "I figgered if yur smart enough to like art, yur smart enough to figger out how to pay for it."

    While this was meant to be a joke at Jesse venutra's expense, I found it to be a pretty compelling argument against public art funding.

    Of course, the best argument against publicly funded art is any Soviet-era art.

  • Fluffy||

    I think you have to remember that many people consider "artists" to be incomprehensible sensitive souls who are not appreciated by the masses and who need to be insulated from the market and its terrible crassness.

    So when you point to all the art that is privately funded, and how getting rid of public arts funding won't impact that art, your argument falls on deaf ears because by definition all that other stuff isn't "art". If it was art, the market wouldn't have funded it.

  • ||

    poor Ansel Adams. His work was overfunded and thus not art.

  • Ricky Roma||

    To John Williamson (Kevin Spacey)"Fuck you John! You know your job, I know mine. Your job is being an asshole."
    That's art!

  • KipEsquire||

    You actually posted this without any reference to Spacey's strictly private deal with strictly private Netflix to strictly privately produce "House of Cards" in which Spacey will play ... a corrupt politician?

  • Irresponsible Hater||

    He buys into precisely the model of culture as a Cross Your Heart Bra (plenty of uplift and posture-building) that mistakes culture's primary function as didactic.

    Well said. This is one of the driving forces behind the accelerating shitification of "serious" movies and TV.

    We will crush all injustice and ignorance under the weight of 10,000 shitty episodes of the West Wing, Spielbergian WWII Epics, Sean Penn melodramas, and Cameron and Ex-Cameron-esque "action" movies (and thereby make TV and movies unwatchable).

    People, please: It's not about the posture - it's about the tits!

  • Anomalous||

    He buys into precisely the model of culture as a Cross Your Heart Bra

    It lifts us up and separates us from the savages. Of course, the underlying assumption is that we're all boobs.

  • ||

    +10000

  • Neu Mejican||

    Of course, the best argument against publicly funded art is any Soviet-era art.

    http://www.russianartgallery.org/famous/soviet.htm

  • zoltan||

    Great argument, NM. Thanks for contributing some evidence.

  • Concerned Citizen||

    Wasn't Hitler an artist?

  • ||

    Good Lord. Spacey droned on for 40 minutes to a captive audience about how teddibly, teddibly important art is?

  • Neu Mejican||

    How were they captive? They choose to be there.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    Leave Kevin Spacey alone, Nick! You leave him alone!

  • ChrisO||

    Actors were at one time lumped in with prostitutes the dregs of society. Which is, of course, a terrible insult to prostitutes.

    I keep that in mind every time an actor spouts an opinion on the teevee.

  • ChrisO||

    The only thing worse than actors and prostitutes is guys who fail to proofread properly.

  • ||

    Yes. Back then, society properly located actors in importance.

  • PendanticTwit ||

    a new variation on one of the great black-humor jokes of all time. "Other than that Mr. President, how did you like the play?"

    The joke is, "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?" Which makes more sense because, you know...

    Of course Our American Cousin was a for-profit (and profitable) production, although it had the literary merit of a Jackass movie.

  • creech||

    The chairman of the financially strapped Phila. Orchestra (in Ch.11) was on the radio this morning admitting that raising taxes on those making more than $250,000 would hurt the financial viability of the Orchestra. It is disheartening that this world class orchestra has trouble raising its $45 million per year budget from classical music lovers in the nation's fifth largest city.
    Matthews is from Philly; maybe he could throw a benefit with all his artist pals?

  • ||

    single tear....

  • Neu Mejican||

    Some artists who produce art funded by the government:
    Picasso, Michelangelo, DaVinci, Milton Avery, Stuart Davis, Mark Rothko, Willem deKooning, Jackson Pollock

  • skr||

    I think you mean produced

  • Neu Mejican||

    yes. typo.

  • skr||

    And seriously michelangelo and da vinci? Government/church (not all that divisible at the time) was pretty much the only game in town and it was done to show how bitchin the rulers were and how much power they had.

  • ||

    Some of the works Michelangelo and da Vinci created were funded by Florence. But most of them were funded by wealthy people like the Medici, various guilds, or, of course, popes.

  • skr||

    Government was a loose concept in Renaissance Italy. All art was controlled by the holy roman empire considering they could put you to death for blasphemy if they didn't approve. Nevermind that because of the city-state model, people like the Medici ruled there little territories. And everyone was buying favors from the church.

  • Paul||

    was pretty much the only game in town and it was done to show how bitchin the rulers were and how much power they had.

    I'm guessing this is Neu Mejican's point. That's why we need government funded art. Because without it, we wouldn't know how bitchin' the rulers are and how bad-ass their powers can be.

    Personally, I'm all about the Patron system. Government funded art should look like it belongs in a Post Office.

  • Neu Mejican||

    to show how bitchin the rulers were and how much power they had.

    Most private patronage works this way as well. It is done to show how bitchin' the patron is and how much power they have.

    I am less convinced that is what is going on with much of the public art funding in our society, however. A variation of it..."how bitchin' our city is" might underlie lots of local public art funding, but the federal funding is a different animal.

  • skr||

    Picasso,Avery, and Pollock were brought up in the art world by influential collectors. Davis was nepotism and collectors. Rothko was brought up by Avery and the NY gallery scene. DeKooning was the only one that made his name because of a public mural project.

  • Neu Mejican||

    DeKooning was the only one that made his name because of a public mural project.

    What does that have to do with anything?

  • Paul||

    Is it true that Keven Spacey would have never been able to act within his proper sphere had it not been for the funding he recieved from the Federal Government?

  • Neu Mejican||

    I'm guessing this is Neu Mejican's point. That's why we need government funded art. Because without it, we wouldn't know how bitchin' the rulers are and how bad-ass their powers can be.

    A poor guess, to say the least. For a couple of reasons:
    1) I never said we NEED government funded art.
    2) Art as propaganda is usually less effective as art the closer it gets to having an overt political message. Public funding for art that celebrates "America" is unlikely to provide much benefit for the country.

    But to return to the "need" issue. Not all activities of the government are done out of necessity. Some are done out of choice. It would be hoped that these are chosen because the provide an overall benefit that justifies the cost. Most societies through history have chosen to invest something from the public coffer on the arts...and the typical excuse given is their belief that the art itself is of value to the society. As a result, public money has supported many great works of art. Like private patronage, that money often chases crap as well, but the idea that there is a qualitative difference between government and private patronage from an artistic stand-point is silly. Commercial success is no more or less corrosive to the production of good art than public funds. And private patrons often demand a level of control that results in crap. Some artists produce art primarily to get the funding. They are rarely artistically important. Some artists who produce great art manage to gain access to significant funding. That is typically more a matter of luck than anything else.

  • Ed Gauthier||

    To which Lincoln replied, "Frankly, it was such a mediocre melodrama that I wish I had been shot before viewing any of it!"

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