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Is This What “Public Funding Of The Arts” Means? (UPDATE)

For years the right has said that government has no business subsidizing art and for that same amount of time the left has claimed that government support is necessary to keep the arts alive. Of course some are of us are of the opinion that if “art” is sufficiently good, the private sector will gladly support it.

But what I assume both sides would agree on is that government support of the arts shouldn’t be abused and turned into government propaganda. Yet:

“…I was invited by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to take part in a conference call that invited a group of rising artist and art community luminaries “to help lay a new foundation for growth, focusing on core areas of the recovery agenda – health care, energy and environment, safety and security, education, community renewal.”

The quote comes from Patrick Courrielche at Big Hollywood and his post there documents his experience on the call.

Backed by the full weight of President Barack Obama’s call to service and the institutional weight of the NEA, the conference call was billed as an opportunity for those in the art community to inspire service in four key categories, and at the top of the list were “health care” and “energy and environment.” The service was to be attached to the President’s United We Serve campaign, a nationwide federal initiative to make service a way of life for all Americans.

Given the tone of the invitation, and the apparent concerns it raised, Courrielche called in. His concerns were validated:

The people running the conference call and rallying the group to get active on these issues were Yosi Sergant, the Director of Communications for the National Endowment for the Arts; Buffy Wicks, Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement; Nell Abernathy, Director of Outreach for United We Serve; Thomas Bates, Vice President of Civic Engagement for Rock the Vote; and Michael Skolnik, Political Director for Russell Simmons.

We were encouraged to bring the same sense of enthusiasm to these “focus areas” as we had brought to Obama’s presidential campaign, and we were encouraged to create art and art initiatives that brought awareness to these issues. Throughout the conversation, we were reminded of our ability as artists and art professionals to “shape the lives” of those around us. The now famous Obama “Hope” poster, created by artist Shepard Fairey and promoted by many of those on the phone call, and will.i.am’s “Yes We Can” song and music video were presented as shining examples of our group’s clear role in the election.

Obama has a strong arts agenda, we were told, and has been very supportive of both using and supporting the arts in creative ways to talk about the issues facing the country. We were “selected for a reason,” they told us. We had played a key role in the election and now Obama was putting out the call of service to help create change. We knew “how to make a stink,” and were encouraged to do so.

Hard to argue, given this report, that the NEA isn’t now involved in a political role. Courrielche wasn’t the only one who was concerned by what he heard. Lee Rosenbaum was “creeped out” by the call she participated in as well. She validates Courrielche’s report and conclusions. Courrielche writes a followup post here.

The point, of course, is it isn’t beyond any politician, administration or government to use and abuse any program for its benefit. When you have a community organizer in the Oval Office, it appears they get abused is record time – nd it is clear, at least to me, that in this case the plan is to use the NEA for propaganda and political gain. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a perfect reason to give the NEA the political death penalty and, finally and forever, defund it.

UPDATE – This isn’t the first time we’ve touched on this subject either. MichaelW covered it back on August 27th when the first conference call was held. Since then there’s been a second (that’s the call Lee Rosenbaum talks about) in which the NEA and White House try a few tricks to give them “plausible deniability” against charges of collusion in a program to get NEA artists to create propaganda for the administration.

~McQ

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15 Responses to Is This What “Public Funding Of The Arts” Means? (UPDATE)

  • As far as I’m concerned, that’s a perfect reason to give the NEA the political death penalty and, finally and forever, defund it.

    Okay then. But can you at least wait until I get my $30,000 grant to finish my 100ft tall statue of a trans-gender unicorn?

    It’s for my neighbor’s benefit after all. They need culture.

    Cheers.

    • Yeah, I was hoping for a $40,000 grant for a full scale model of the Congress building in human feces. I was hoping for irony but ….

  • There was a piece recently, where they tried to hunt down the NEA conference call, in advance, and were given the run around by NEA official Yosi Sargent who claimed that Michael Skolnik had sent the inviting e-mail, which was subsequently proven to a false, as it came from Sargent.

    http://bighollywood.breitbart.com/pcourrielche/2009/08/31/contradictions-are-revealing-politicizing-the-nea/

  • Obama has a strong arts agenda, we were told, and has been very supportive of both using and supporting the arts in creative ways to talk about the issues facing the country. We were “selected for a reason,” they told us. We had played a key role in the election and now Obama was putting out the call of service to help create change. We knew “how to make a stink,” and were encouraged to do so.

    Where does “art” end and “propaganda” begin? I’m just glad to see that some of these artists have enough integrity to ask the question.

    We’ve also seen that art that “raises a stink” isn’t (ahem) encouraged when it raises the wrong stink. Obama-as-Joker posters, anyone?

    This is the problem with public funding of the arts in general: one man’s art is another man’s outrage. Especially with the government flat broke and going further into debt at a record pace, why should my tax dollars be spent to create “art” that is effectively propaganda for programs, positions, and ideas that I may well find objectionable? If somebody wants a painting of TAO as a messiah complete with halo, let them order a poster-sized version of a Time or Rolling Stones magazine cover. If somebody wants a painting of TAO as a dirty commie rat… send me $49.95 plus S&H!

  • The Demmies are not above politicizing everything, just likes the Republicans are. The only difference is that the media tells you when the Republicans do it, and they yawn and say nothing when the Demmies do it.

    So much for “no media bias” from the dimwitted left.

    (You should all know that if you troll leftwing websites and read some of the comments, they believe at 1) the media is on the GOP’s side, 2) Obama is getting a raw deal because “the radical right hates a black man being President,” and 3) Obama is doing everything right, and if people would just leave him alone, he can get on with being the greatest President we have ever had.

    Yep, folks, they are called delusions, and liberals seem to suffer from them in spades lately.

    (Hey! I asked the NEA for $10,000 to fund “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” a painting of a fully nude Baracky Obamma wearing nothing but a fig leaf which says, “My brains are on the other side of me.” Does anything think that this could be in jeopardy now? )

  • and for that same amount of time the left has claimed that government support is necessary to keep the arts alive.

    I’ve never understood how they can say this with a straight face.

  • Triumph of the Will redux

  • Where does “art” end and “propaganda” begin?

    They don’t begin or end – that’s the point.

    • Where does “art” end and “propaganda” begin?

      In my estimation, propaganda begins when I’m being forced to pay for a “message” that promotes my demise.

  • Yosi Sargent get “moted” .. he’s not Communications Director for the National Endowment for the Arts anymore, but not gone.

    • Yeah, I saw that – handy when you don’t want the guy who lied about NEA involvement in the calls available for questioning or comment, isn’t it? You still control access to him because you didn’t turn him out in the street (yet).

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