Sunday, February 8, 2009

Here we go again. [heavy sigh]

So many have written so well about the misguided Coburn Amendment (e.g., Parabasis, Culture Shock) and its discouraging implications that I won’t reproduce our collective jeremiad here. But fundamentally, what irks me personally about the whole business is this ongoing assumption that the arts are frilly extras that somehow exist outside the American economy.

I can think of no better refutation of this persistent belief that Penelope Burk’s recent post on Burk’s Blog. In short, she refers to a dialogue in which an interviewer expressed how important a physician’s life-saving work was, while all she had ever done was work in the arts. His quiet response to her was: “My job is to save lives; your job, working here in the arts, is to make those lives worth saving. We are both equally important.”

Question now is: what can be done about the proposed changes to the stimulus package, and both aforementioned sites will assist you with that. As they point out, it really does just take two minutes to make your voice heard.


MattyZ said...

I'm stealing that quote and hurling it like a righteous grenade. I am so tired of hearing artists apologize for what they do - for shrinking away from what they offer community.

Sadly, the new political climate of "change" does not feel like change at all for true progressives. The left remains ignored - and that's the issue. Those who want to defend the arts are almost always far left on the political spectrum. How do we persuade the middle that the arts are as important as science, medicine, banking..etc etc ??? And how to politicians grow balls and stand up for what they really believe in?

It's all very exhausting. I need a nap.

Cheryl said...

Even though I work in the arts, I'm willing to let funding go to stuff like, say, hospitals or homeless shelters first. But so much of what we regard as "the economy"--i.e. things that are okay to spend money on--are the real frilly extras. I think it's more valid to spend money on producing new plays or new books than new SUVs.

Steve Patterson said...

I know how you guys feel, and I agree this is a good time to lobby Congress on the importance of the arts, but a couple things.

First, this is the shit Coburn does. He's crazy as a three-tailed cat in a rocking chair factory, and the fact that he went with amendments rather than a filibuster tells me that the leadership got him to take his meds because they didn't want to lose that one (which would be defeated, making them look like losers, and could be used as campaign ad fodder if the stimulus plan succeeds).

Second, Coburn had two amendments, the one that, by extension, prevents stimulus money being spent on arts facilities, and one that allows competitive bidding for work funded by the stimulus. Democratic Senators (I think) voted for A so they could also vote for B (which makes them look fiscally responsible), which means that when the bill goes to conference, they can strip out A and leave Senator Dumbass with a victory. The House plan provides $50 mil more for the NEA, and the White House has drawn a line in the sand and said that amount is non-negotiable; that makes me think they can strip out or rewrite the amendment in conference. (Which would proabably amount to leaving in the no spending on casinos part and take out the arts/public works stuff.) Coburn did a classic move by targeting a Nevada museum about the history of gambling (a weird idea, but, is part of Nevada culture), so he could point to anybody who voted against it and say, "My opponent voted in favor of funding the mafia!" Barf. But it works because people don't pay attention.

Finally, though the arts could certainly use a chunk of the stimulus pie (and studies have found there are serious economic benefits to arts spending), it doesn't eliminate all arts funding from the budget, just monies from the stimulus bill targeted for capital improvements.

How's that for Byzantine? Ah.... Democracy.


Steve Patterson said...

You know what I said before? Uh...nevermind. I have a feeling no one's going to know what this thing looks like when they finally get done with the frenzied surgery it appears to be undergoing. (I'm thinking something like the baby in "Eraserhead.") Anyway, I apologize for trotting out my cynical, journalist "don't worry" voice; I think we're off the charted map, and, right now, I'm not feeling at all well about how the arts will fare. Here there be monsters....

Mead said...

Yeah. For a minute I was encouraged to see that a similar fiasco was happening to science funding, with a corresponding outcry from the research community. Then all of the sudden: voila, their funding was back in. Which makes you wonder if there's any kind of arts lobby whatsoever, or if it's just us chickens signing our pitiful petitions and emailing our senators.

Steve Patterson said...

Holy Crap! I'm stunned, but...ahem...I actually got this right in my original analysis. (His shirt immediately puffs to twice it's normal size.)

"House and Senate negotiators on the bill dropped the language prohibiting stimulus funds from going to museums, theatres, and arts centers which was included in the version of the bill passed by the Senate. However, the legislation still excludes support from going to fund projects at zoos and aquariums along with casinos, golf courses and swimming pools."

Okay. There was some reason I went to J-school after all.