Welfare for artists

Welfare for artists

What’s wrong with this story? some boston city councilors want to bring in revenue by creating another specialty license plate. Okay, if you’re dumb enough to hand the government more of your hard-earned money so you can have a vanity plate, that’s your prerogative. But here’s where I scratch my head:

“This is the ultimate bumper sticker,” said Beacon Hill Councilor Michael P. Ross. “We have this great opportunity to bring in money.”

Ross, an art lover, has been looking for a specialized revenue stream for the city since he gained the chairmanship of the council’s budget-reviewing Ways and Means Committee two years ago. “Arts is a consistently underfunded area in government,” said Ross. “We really need to find a dedicated revenue source.”[Emphasis added]

Since when is funding art a function of government? Or better yet, why should the funding of art be a function of government anymore? I can understand the funding of art appreciation in schools and perhaps even the placement of art in public places (although I would rather private donations be raised to buy that art), but the government should not be in the business of providing money to artists.

There was a time when art was supported for its own sake, by patrons who appreciated the work of the artists. Of course, that was when art made sense and had an aesthetic of beauty. Now some guy can fling elephant dung on a painting of the Blessed Mother and call it art. I think what I will call government welfare for art has created a space for “stupid art” in our society. I’m no art critics, I don’t have a Fine Arts degree. But I know good art when I see it, and a lot of the stuff being peddled out there now isn’t good art.

Much of it is nihilistic and deconstructionist and post-modern and emblematic of the completely secularized and materialist view of the world that grips the so-called cultural elites. So, no thanks to government funding of art. Let them seek patrons for their work. And may the marketplace allow a return to good art.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli

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