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Monday, December 20, 2010

STOP FEDERAL FUNDING FOR THE ARTS


"I want to throw up because we're supposed to quietly and politely make house in this killing machine called America and pay taxes to support our own slow murder and I'm amazed we're not running amok in the streets, and that we can still be capable of gestures of loving after lifetimes of all this."
                                                            David Wojnarowicz

It’s time for some honor and honesty among artists. We – theater, performance, literary and visual artists – should demand that the Federal government stop all funding for the arts. I’m not certain that David Wojnarowicz would have agreed with this position, but my gut tells me he would have, and not simply over the blatant censorship of his writing recently exerted by the Smithsonian.

Almost no Federal money goes to contemporary artists. Federal funding for the arts is basically limited to supporting elitist institutions. As if the tax cuts for billionaires weren’t enough, the country is forced to support museums and theaters that are run by sycophantic administrators who would rather pucker up and kiss some corporate butt than engage in an exchange with living artists. (I’m talking about creators here, not interpreters – meaning pit musicians, directors and actors, for example. Don’t get me wrong. These folks can be creative, but they do not originate the pieces upon which their work is based.)    

The late great Henry Miller (the writer, not the theater manager) once said that museums are mausoleums built by the rich to show the rest of us how little we know. And much as I enjoy a stroll through the galleries of the MoMA or the Metropolitan, the idea of government funding for these institutions strikes me as criminal in this current economy. If the museums and institutional theaters were presenting work that challenged corporate dominance I might feel differently. However, the grant money that arts organizations receive has become hush money.

The pittance that is doled out by the Federal government is not worth the censorship and other strings that are part and parcel of this funding. Groveling for money might suit administrators but it does not become an artist, at all.


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