Saturday, January 14, 2006

Who Benefits from Funding the Arts

I used to work near Harborfront in downtown Toronto. Perambulating during decent weather after lunch often resulting in walking through the arts center. Glass blowers working away, paintings and photographs hung on the walls, etc etc.

On display one particular day, a 'sculpture': a little imaginary domestic scene, made from sticks. Such as a child might make in a sandbox. But this was Art. And, we funded it. It was for sale. It was poorly conceived, poorly made, and banal. It was marginal junk.

Who would buy such an item? Or the glass. Or the painting. Or the photograph. Funded by you and I? Low or middle income families?

Funding the Arts is not for you and I. From the individual artiste to the opera company, who consumes their product? The masses? Or the elites? The elites do not require financial assistance to obtain the cultural product or services - they need to dig deeper into their pockets for same.

Funding the Arts does not produce better art. It does not provide more 'access' to good art. It provides discounted access to elites that could pay the freight anyway, surrounds us with marginal product, and supports a non-productive lifestyle for people unwilling to face reality and develop a plan B for supporting themselves.

And before you condemn me for being an insensitive neanderthal, consider this: I studied with the premier American landscape photographer after submitting a portfolio of my work - the entirety of which was funded by myself. I am closer to arts than most other people. I know whereof I speak.