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« Weight and Brains | Main | More Conservative Than Liberal »

August 26, 2009


Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* Patrick Courrielche wonders if the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is being politicized, urging artists to create works sympathetic to the Administration's programs (via Jude at the Hugh Hewitt blog).

This leads me to wonder how much Franklin Roosevelt's employment programs for artists did something similar. There was a Progressive tinge to some government sponsored art in those days, but I haven't studied the subject enough to know whether it was something that bubbled up from artists with strong leftist beliefs (and was tolerated by administrators of the arts programs) or was actually encouraged by some of those administrators.

* Even though some Progressives are really uncomfortable with advertising and marketing, others seem perfectly happy to push customers' hot buttons.

Note the buzz-words painted on the wall

PCC (Puget Consumers' Co-op) is a Seattle area food market cooperative (background info here) appealing to the Whole Foods and Trader Joe's crowds, but with the twist that it's non-profit.

* Slogan seen on back of a lady's sweatshirt this morning:

I didn't claw my way to the top of the food chain to eat vegetables



posted by Donald at August 26, 2009


Yes, the process is politicized: when one applies for grants, he must include in the proposal room for the grant provider's concerns. He may not want to provide programs for the autistic or six fingered; but, if the grant will be weighed toward those who do, the would be recipient must toe the line.

Posted by: njartist49 on August 26, 2009 3:30 PM

From "Yes, Minister," where Minister James Hacker is talking to his Civil Service Secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby:

APPLEBY: Plays attacking the government constitute the second most boring evenings in the theater.
HACKER: And the first?
APPLEBY: Plays praising the government.

Posted by: Greg Hlatky on August 26, 2009 3:36 PM

As a strong supporter of the arts, including government support of the arts through the NEA, I am indeed upset by the Patrick Courrielche piece. My hope (not "HOPE") is that it was a misguided example of some NEA staffers attempting to curry favor and support among a group they thought would respond well to an appeal to their (presumed) efforts on behalf of the Obama election campaign. The NEA suffered from neglect (at best) under the previous administration and periodically faces attacks from various politicians on the right. The sense that they have a friend rather than foe in the White House might well have brought out the impulse to polish some apples for the teacher. It is, however, a dangerous and misguided impulse if it is a sign of how the NEA will operate going forward.

The absolute LAST thing anyone truly supportive of the arts and the NEA's positive role in assisting artists and arts agencies wants to see is a push toward the NEA favoring advocacy arts, especially arts advocacy of specific areas of concern to the administration.

Adbusters is an anti-consumerist group originating in Vancouver dedicated to critiquing advertising and consumer culture. The PCC (Puget Consumers' Co-op) is a Seattle not-for-profit food market cooperative. They have a mission statement that is reflected in the signage on their store. It's absolutely shocking! What sort of outrage might we expect next? Perhaps a bicycle shop touting their products with a sign that says something like "Commute, Don't Pollute." Or, on the other side of the equation, a gun shop emblazoned with a sign "Support the Second Amendment, Arm Yourself."

Posted by: Chris White on August 26, 2009 6:33 PM

The International Space Station has yet to be completed, at an estimated final cost of $100 billion. Each shuttle flight to the station cost .5 billion dolars. NASA plans to de-orbit the ISS only a few years from now.

Now there's a spectacularly wasteful boondoggle to get outraged over.

The NEA costs peanuts. Yours is the third post about the NEA or government funding of the arts at this blog in the last few months.

Tell me, if the NEA were suddenly to subsidize art projects with reactionary programmatic content, would you still opose the NEA? I suspect not.

Posted by: Peter L. Winkler on August 27, 2009 1:17 AM

The International Space Station has yet to be completed, at an estimated final cost of $100 billion. Each shuttle flight to the station cost .5 billion dolars. NASA plans to de-orbit the ISS only a few years from now.

Maybe we should get rid of both programs. We don't need a "space station" and we don't need political operatives masquerading as artists.

Better that people should keep their own money and decide how to spend it.

Posted by: B on August 27, 2009 9:00 AM

"The International Space Station has yet to be completed, at an estimated final cost of $100 billion. Each shuttle flight to the station cost .5 billion dolars. NASA plans to de-orbit the ISS only a few years from now.

Now there's a spectacularly wasteful boondoggle to get outraged over."

All true, except for the recent shuttle mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope. That was a triumph of American know-how and commitment to scientific advancement. (The fact that I'm the Project Scientist for one of the two new instruments on HST installed has absolutely no bearing on my view of the importance of government support for extremely expensive servicing missions.)

FYI, the NASA press conference showing off the new Hubble is on Sept. 9.

Posted by: CyndiF on August 27, 2009 1:11 PM

The NEA is the largest funding source for the arts in the country. Also, grants from other sources are often dependent (unofficially) on an artist or organization first having gotten NEA grants. NEA-recognized artists and panelists wind up on other panels; they get to know each other; they learn how the game is played. An official and unofficial bureaucracy takes root. In other words, however small the NEA seems by contrast to, say, corporate welfare, it's immensely important where the arts go.

Hey, here's one example of how the NEA affects the content and form of the arts in a way completely divorced from politics. Think for a sec about book-fiction, or at least book-lit. At the NEA's birth, what we now know as "workshop fiction" barely existed. I checked a recent NEA grants-awarding lit board, and (my notes are at home while I'm on the road, but the figures I'm citing are close) 30 of the 35 people on the board were or had been in the creative-writing industry. Out of curiosity, I Googled a couple of the people who didn't seem connected with the fiction-workshop academic world, and they turned out to have been part of it too.

In other words, completely independent of politics, and completely independent or whether or not you like workshop fiction, the NEA has played a big role in creating and nourishing workshop-style lit writing, as well as in establishing workshop-style lit writing as the semi-officially-endorsed high end of book writing.

On the board I looked at, how many of the writer/teacher/administrator types had anything to do with narrative, suspense, romance, western, or genre fiction? One. And she appeared to be not a straightforward storyteller but instead someone "doing something interesting" with genre.

Here's a history of writing workshops and their impact on American fiction. (By my lights it takes 'way too sunny a view of the impact of workshops on our reading-and-writing life. But what the heck, where the facts go it's accurate, and it does a good job of conveying how immense a change the workshop thing has wrought.)


Posted by: Michael Blowhard on August 27, 2009 8:31 PM

I haven't studied the subject enough to know

Then why don't you go study the subject and shut up about it until you have done so?

Posted by: Ray Butler on August 27, 2009 10:06 PM

Go away! I thought you'd left! Please, Ray, go away! You have nothing at all to offer anyone here!


p.s. What happened to the "s"? Wait, don't answer that. JUST LEAVE.

Posted by: PatrickH on August 28, 2009 10:37 AM

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