Sunday, February 08, 2009

David Ross Suggests Ten Steps that Could Help Renew the Arts in the United States

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,

Brian Sherwin
New York Art Exchange
London Calling


Donald Frazell said...

Sure is alot of taking, and not much giving. What there is, is giving mostly worthless trash and using it as a tax writeoff, just who is an "artist"? What qualifies them as such? A MFA? LOL!. No, art is for independants, those who go againt the system, as truth is their only guideline, grants invite immediate corruption. Only the tough, and good, and meaninhgul, survive. There are far too many in the arts now, most who are listed as such are really entertainers. There ios no way to regulate or administer such a instituiton as a culture czar. Absurd idea. Those who can will do and find a way, works that are meaningfull wil be done, but never when on the public dole. The wheat must be separated from the chaff, this create more chaff. And the grain will never be found.

and this absurd notion of funding art through the current stimulus bill is madness. This is not the budget, this hass nothig to do with yearly expenditures, but a one time stimulus to build our economic health. Art does nothing of this kind, it is spiritual, emotional, and does NOT add to an an economy, except in inspiration. And the current art scene is so self involved, 99% of America doesnt give a damn. Once it revitalizes itself, through hard work, and common purpose, then it can assist in our growth. But never on the public dole. Have some pride, suck it up, and get to work.

art collegia delenda est

QChique said...

Yes the government could do a lot to help the arts via these programs and ideas and others. However, the current crop of artists I think would not take kindly to be dictated to by the administration after being funded. Is it reasonable to expect that if the government funds the program the government gets to direct its use and interpretation, to say what is worthy and in the public interest and what is not? Or is it reasonable to fund programs blindly or with little government control and direction? A balance of the two while desirable, will certainly never be attained. Do the average American's actually give a rat's ass? Probably not at this time, as worthy as it may be. While the great social experiment may be righteous and the right thing, is it really the right thing right now?