Well, we're to the end of the political conventions here in the U.S. and, Surprise!, we haven't yet heard a stump speech mentioning art. Or did I miss that one?
Should art have a place in the political debate? If so, what size is our chair at the table? How much air time should we get? What art-related topics should be discussed?
16 thoughts on “Deep Thought Thursday: Art and politics”
Your question leads me to ask another (and yes, I am a US voter) – how much say do we want government to have in the arts? And my initial reaction really was that there are far far more important issues at stake. Frankly I don’t want to hear them talk about art when they can discuss the economy, war costs, human rights, anti-discrimination in the military, legalizing civil unions, women’s reproduction rights and other things.
Edward Winkleman’s post today might interest you too: http://tinyurl.com/66r57b
I only wish that art played a larger part in the world around us, but I think that it directly affects such a small percentage of people that it is really ignored until someone is looking to make a name for themselves with some controversy.
After that matter of copyright law changes on the Congressional floor (Orphan Works Act), I’m not so sure I want to see politicians discussing art…
I have this quote from John F. Kennedy on my studio wall: “If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.” We need an arts advocate in the White House! I would love to hear the candidate’s views on the arts and government’s roll in their support. How much artistic freedom do they believe artists and arts organizations should enjoy when they receive taxpayer dollars? What are their views on arts education schools that receive public funds? To what degree do they believe the arts nourish and define the U.S. culture? To use your metaphor, Alyson, for a long time now it has felt like the arts have had a chair at the children’s table just in listening distance of the grownups, but not to be taken seriously. It is long over due that we have a strong arts advocate in the White House who will bring the arts to the grownup’s table, where we belong. A president can use the bully pulpit to elevate the arts in minds of the people and Congress. JFK did that at one of the most turbulent times in U.S. history, during the cold war, the Cuban missile crisis, very real fears of nuclear war and deepening involvement in Viet Nam. If the arts could be elevated then, as they were, they can certainly be elevated now.
Like a old shoe, a trusted spouse or a loving parent, people take art for granted, assuming that it will always continue to be there to influence and enrich their lives. Every aspect of design in every aspect of our lives springs from a creative, artistic mind. Housing, auto design, clothing, computer design and function all began as a twinkle in an artist’s eye. Einstein himself said that creativity is more important than knowledge. “Fine art” takes a back burner to food, shelter and survival of the species a truth which we are certainly discovering in today’s economy. I agree with Scott and Tina there are more fundamental issues to address first.
Last year at about this time, I was enrolled in a University course called “Art, Culture, and Politics.” It was one of the most fascinating classes I have ever taken. To see how closely art and politics have been co-mingled in every civilization and every form of politics was absolutely enlightening. Whether it’s mentioned or not, art will always play a role in politics, and vice versa. It’s somewhat ridiculous that these strange bedfellows are rarely overtly mentioned in the same sentence even though entire critical essays have been written on the subject. It would be refreshing to hear, for once, someone other than a well educated art critic talk about the interplay between the two forces.
Tina: Thanks for the Winkelman link. Hadn’t made it there yet today. Got a kick out of the comments. All: The debate about whether or not we want them to talk about art will rage forever. But we can’t legitimately desire public funding (NEA) if we don’t want government involved in the arts. Sare-bear: Do you think arts will always play a role in politics or is the reverse more of a truism? That politics will always play a role in art?
Sorry, but I think the country, and the world, has more serious issues to deal with than art. When Americans feel good about their family’s safety, their economic security, maybe we’ll sell art, again. Riddle me this: Do you think the arts will thrive more under Obama-Biden or McCain-Palin? Not a hard question, IMO….
Considering the amount of work, and time, artists have contributed to Obama’s campaign, I think the arts should be a little more appreciated than they are. But, yeah, the country does have other things to worry about. In general, I just want to hear more about supporting the art programs in schools.. Stop cutting them in favor of sports and I’ll be happy.
The Democratic platform has the following plank: “The Arts: Investment in the arts is an investment in our creativity and cultural heritage, in our diversity, in our communities, and in our humanity. We support art in schools and increased public funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. We support the cultural exchange of artists around the world, spreading democracy and renewing America’s status as a cultural and artistic center.” I found this on the Arts Vote 2008 Web site. Although their are many Republican arts advocates, it does not look like they have support for the arts in their platform.
Too often grants to the arts seem to provide for shock art. In general, the American Public wants serene, pretty, realism. The funny cover of the New Yorker magazine wasn’t percieved as art, was it? Lots of political art, the cartoons and comics in the paper every day. “Oh? Is that Art??” Every facet of our lives begins with a sketch by an artist, but, yes, we’re at the children’s table in the kitchen. “Draw me a picture.” “OK, how about this new design for a toothbrush?” And yes, the Republicanss favor less government, more self rule.
absolutely art needs to be discussed… the Orphan Works bill is of MAJOR importance to artists: http://www.owoh.org/
An artist friend referred me to Obama’s website last week where his campaign’s arts platform is outlined: http://www.barackobama.com/pdf/issues/additional/Obama_FactSheet_Arts.pdf I have yet to find anything similar for McCain. Related to your newsletter topic this week, Obama supports legislative changes allowing artists to deduct fair market value of artwork rather than just the costs of materials.
FYI: McCain is on the record of being opposed to funding the National Endowment for the Arts in the past, although I don’t think he would seek elimination of it. Of interest: http://www.artsjournal.com/culturegrrl/2008/09/desperately_seeking_john_mccai.html http://artocracy.blogs.com/artocracy/2008/07/john-mccain-arts-policy-none.html Melissa: I think you’re buying into scare tactics. The NEA was completely reorganized–every program from the top down–after the so-called “scandals” of circa 1990. Take a look at their programs and you will see a HUGE difference in what is being funded.
On a local level, last night in Indianapolis, a budget hearing was held inviting public comment on the proposed 33% cut in the paltry arts budget for next year. Our current administration follows an art-friendly one which took the politically risky view that support for the arts increases public safety and the general economy of our fair city. Sadly the current mayor disagrees.