untangling the awkward relationship between art and money

Obamania: Looking after the arts end of town

So, the party’s over. Balloons – deflated. Champagne – what’s left is flat and lukewarm.

As for your memories of last night? Last night. Euphoria and ecstasy. Now tempered by the unforgiving light of day. Snoring, morning-after death-breath and crusty detritus of sleep deposited at the corner of eyes that last night looked so enticing. Destiny, that mesmerising vixen, was at the steering wheel. And now she’s left you, standing at the side of the road, future unknown.

Ah, Obama. Recipient of the most poisoned chalice in recent history. And yet? He ploughs on. Most importantly, he’s looking after the arts. 

As part of the Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the US National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) have been handed $50m in funding to distribute to not-for-profit arts bodies. Democratic Congressman David Obey, bless him, sponsored the bill, saying: “There are five million people who work in the arts industry. And right now they have 12.5% unemployment—or are you suggesting that somehow if you work in that field, it isn’t real when you lose your job, your mortgage or your health insurance? We’re trying to treat people who work in the arts the same way as anybody else.”  Artists treated as ordinary citizens with a right to enjoy a reasonable standard of living? Unheard of.

This despite the objections of Senator Tom Coburn, who sought to prevent funding distribution to: “wasteful and non-stimulative” projects, including museums, theatres and art centres, and “any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, or swimming pool”. Dude obviously hasn’t been attending the right casinos or aquariums. Or swimming pools, for that matter. Stimulation right out the wazoo, if you know where to look.

And if ever you were in any doubt that the best guy won – Arizona Senator and failed Presidential candidate, John McCain, described the NEA funding as “hundreds of millions of dollars in unnecessary spending that will not do anything to stimulate the economy”. Can you see Alaska from your house, Senator McCain?

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