An article titled ’The ten first steps that Barack Obama could take to renew the arts’ by David A. Ross was recently published on The Art Newspaper website. Mr. Ross, former director of the Whitney Museum, ICA Boston and SFMOMA, offered his suggestions for 10 steps that the Obama administration could take toward renewing the Arts in the United States.
His suggestions are:
1. Support the tax code amendment currently in the works that would give artists tax incentives for donating their work to public museums, and fully restore the tax incentive for gifts of appreciated property to museums and other non-profit educational organisations.
2. Re-establish a programme employing artists in a wide range of cultural institutions.
3. Revive and rebuild the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, de-politicising their processes, and providing them with budgets necessary to support the American cultural community. Nothing less than annual appropriation of $750m (as opposed to $290m today) is needed.
4. Create an independent study of the operating expenses of our museums and libraries, and then fund the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) sufficiently, so that the core costs of our museums and libraries can be properly met. (The same should be done in support of reinvigorating the infrastructure of our institutions of music, dance and theatre.)
5. Invest in art and music education for all school pupils, and ensure that these efforts are coordinated with the increased spending in direct artist support, as well as renewed institutional infrastructure and programme support.
6. Rebuild a new Arts America programme to allow American artists, musicians, dancers and writers to serve as cultural ambassadors and help rebuild the image of the United States around the world.
7. Simplify and expedite the process for obtaining (de-politicised) visas for visiting foreign artists, musicians and academics.
8. Restore direct federal and state grants for artists, musicians and writers (including critics).
9. Establish either a cabinet-level Secretary for Art and Culture, or at the very least, create a White House arts advisory office to coordinate and show presidential support for American culture.
10. Create an emergency bailout fund for cultural institutions in dire need during this current credit crisis. At least $250m will be necessary, but this is a drop in the ocean when compared with the value these institutions return to the nation as a whole. This single act will affirm to all that the federal government will not stand by and allow these great resources to falter.
What are your thoughts on these suggestions by David Ross? Are a few needed more than the rest? What advice would you give to the Obama administration in regards to strengthening the arts in the United States? I want to know what you think.
As for myself, I'm still pondering the steps that Ross mentioned. Off hand I agree with his suggestion of restoring direct federal and state grants for artists, musicians and writers (including critics) as long as the selections are fair and balanced. In other words, the outcome of the grants should reflect a wide range of opinions.
I also support his suggestion of employing artists in a wide range of cultural institutions. Tax incentives for artists who donate art to public museums is also a must in my opinion. That said, I'm wary of the Secretary for Arts and Culture suggestion.
Rumors about said position have been floating around for a few months now. Many who support it state that other countries have a position that is similar in concept-- what they forget is that positions of that nature don't always work as they should. The last thing we need is for the government to dictate what type of art can be exhibited in spaces that receive government funding. In other words, Presidential support for American culture is great-- but not if the art supported ends up reflecting partisan spin.
Take care, Stay true,
New York Art Exchange