This blog post was not brought to you by the National Endowment for the Arts

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This blog post was not brought to you by the National Endowment for the Arts

[cap­tion id=“attachment_54680” align=“alignright” width=“206”] John “Lee” Ruberry of Da Tech Guy’s Mag­nif­i­cent Seven.[/caption]

By John Ruberry

Last week Pres­i­dent Trump released his pro­posed fis­cal 2018 bud­get. Not included in it was fund­ing for the National Endow­ment for the Arts and the National Endow­ment for the Humanities.

The left, which dom­i­nates the arts, responded pre­dictably, act­ing as if art itself was being attacked.

Sit down and breathe deeply. Close your eyes. Now relax. If the NEA and the NEH dis­ap­pear – there will still be art. Even after eight years of eco­nomic dor­mancy under Barack Obama, the United States is still a fab­u­lously wealthy nation with plenty of dis­pos­able income, some of which will of course be spent on the arts.

Do you feel bet­ter now? Good. I knew you would.

Art is every­where. In fact it’s right in front of you now – my post at Da Tech Guy and all of the oth­ers here are artis­tic endeav­ors, albeit not funded by the fed­eral government.

Yes, the NEA and the NEH, as far as I know, no longer funds exhi­bi­tions of Robert Map­plethorpe pho­tographs show­ing gen­i­talia of pre-​pubescent girls or a dis­play of Piss Christ, but this Great Soci­ety muta­tion of royal patron­age of the arts – didn’t we fight a rev­o­lu­tion against a king? – makes lit­tle cul­tural or eco­nomic sense, as George Will explains.

David Mar­cus, artis­tic direc­tor of a Brooklyn-​based the­ater project and senior con­trib­u­tor to The Fed­er­al­ist, says the NEA pro­duces “per­verse mar­ket incen­tives” that explain why many arts insti­tu­tions “are fail­ing badly at reach­ing new audi­ences, and los­ing ground.”

Many the­ater com­pa­nies, even the country’s most ‘suc­cess­ful,’ get barely 50 per­cent of their rev­enue from ticket sales. Much of the rest comes from tax-​deductible dona­tions and direct gov­ern­ment grants. This means that the real way to suc­ceed as an arts orga­ni­za­tion is not to cre­ate a prod­uct that attracts new audi­ences, but to cre­ate a prod­uct that pleases those who dole out the free cash. The indus­try received more free money than it did a decade ago, and has fewer attendees.”

The arts com­mu­nity is inces­tu­ous, espe­cially within its foun­da­tions and board­rooms. You scratch my Cubist back and I’ll mas­sage your west­ern yodel­ing feet. You’ve heard of crony cap­i­tal­ism. There is also crony arts.

As usual, I don’t have to look beyond my own grossly mis­man­aged state of Illi­nois – when we had bud­gets they made about as much sense as a Jack­son Pol­lock paint­ing–to find an exam­ple of crony­ism in prac­tice. The Illi­nois Arts Coun­cil Agency, which as you can tell by its name, is a state agency and it is a recip­i­ent of National Endow­ment for the Arts cash. It was founded in 1965, which not coin­ci­den­tally, was when the NEA began. The chair of the Illi­nois Arts Coun­cil Agency is Shirley Madi­gan, the wife of state House Speaker and Illi­nois Demo­c­ra­tic Party Boss Michael Madi­gan. Their daugh­ter is Lisa Madi­gan, Illi­nois’ attor­ney general.

The Illi­nois Arts Coun­cil Agency boasts that nearly 100 per­cent of the state’s leg­isla­tive dis­tricts receives some IACA fund­ing. It’s all about spread­ing the wealth around. As for those leg­isla­tive dis­tricts, the geo­graphic con­tor­tion cre­ated by Michael Madigan’s ger­ry­man­der­ing just might be wor­thy enough to be put on dis­play at the Art Insti­tute of Chicago adja­cent to those Pollock-​esque state bud­gets, but that’s another matter.

The NEA and the NEH also oper­ates under the same spread-​the-​favors-​around – I mean wealth, mind­set – which is why defend­ers of these groups cite fed­eral fund­ing for events such as the Cow­boy Poetry Gath­er­ing in Nevada and the Hip Hop Ini­tia­tive in North Car­olina as jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for these agencies.

[cap­tion id=“attachment_96138” align=“alignright” width=“259”] Blog­ger on a self-​funded trip to the Vicks­burg battlefield[/caption]

The NEH pro­vided fund­ing for Ken Burns’ acclaimed 1990 Civil War doc­u­men­tary that was broad­cast on PBS, which is another suc­cess boasted by sup­port­ers of the NEH. Oh, Trump’s bud­get wants to elim­i­nate for that net­work as well as NPR. Have you seen Burns’ Civil War? It’s fab­u­lous. But what of the money for sales of Ken Burns’ Civil War book, or the Civil War DVDs and CDs? Or Civil War dig­i­tal down­loads? How much does the fed­eral gov­ern­ment get from those sales?

How much does Ken Burns collect?

Sure, NEA and NEH fund­ing is a very small piece of fed­eral spend­ing – $148 mil­lion is the expen­di­ture for this year. But proper bud­get­ing means say­ing “No” a lot. Amer­ica is wealthy – but not infi­nitely so.

John Ruberry reg­u­larly blogs at Marathon Pun­dit.

If you enjoy what you read at Da Tech Guy, don’t write to your mem­ber of Con­gress and request fed­eral fund­ing for us, please click on this link and sub­scribe.

John “Lee” Ruberry of Da Tech Guy’s Magnificent Seven.

By John Ruberry

Last week President Trump released his proposed fiscal 2018 budget. Not included in it was funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The left, which dominates the arts, responded predictably, acting as if art itself was being attacked.

Sit down and breathe deeply. Close your eyes. Now relax. If the NEA and the NEH disappear–there will still be art. Even after eight years of economic dormancy under Barack Obama, the United States is still a fabulously wealthy nation with plenty of disposable income, some of which will of course be spent on the arts.

Do you feel better now? Good. I knew you would.

Art is everywhere. In fact it’s right in front of you now–my post at Da Tech Guy and all of the others here are artistic endeavors, albeit not funded by the federal government.

Yes, the NEA and the NEH, as far as I know, no longer funds exhibitions of Robert Mapplethorpe photographs showing genitalia of pre-pubescent girls or a display of Piss Christ, but this Great Society mutation of royal patronage of the arts–didn’t we fight a revolution against a king?–makes little cultural or economic sense, as George Will explains.

David Marcus, artistic director of a Brooklyn-based theater project and senior contributor to The Federalist, says the NEA produces “perverse market incentives” that explain why many arts institutions “are failing badly at reaching new audiences, and losing ground.”

“Many theater companies, even the country’s most ‘successful,’ get barely 50 percent of their revenue from ticket sales. Much of the rest comes from tax-deductible donations and direct government grants. This means that the real way to succeed as an arts organization is not to create a product that attracts new audiences, but to create a product that pleases those who dole out the free cash. The industry received more free money than it did a decade ago, and has fewer attendees.”

The arts community is incestuous, especially within its foundations and boardrooms. You scratch my Cubist back and I’ll massage your western yodeling feet. You’ve heard of crony capitalism. There is also crony arts.

As usual, I don’t have to look beyond my own grossly mismanaged state of Illinois–when we had budgets they made about as much sense as a Jackson Pollock painting–to find an example of cronyism in practice. The Illinois Arts Council Agency, which as you can tell by its name, is a state agency and it is a recipient of National Endowment for the Arts cash. It was founded in 1965, which not coincidentally, was when the NEA began. The chair of the Illinois Arts Council Agency is Shirley Madigan, the wife of state House Speaker and Illinois Democratic Party Boss Michael Madigan. Their daughter is Lisa Madigan, Illinois’ attorney general.

The Illinois Arts Council Agency boasts that nearly 100 percent of the state’s legislative districts receives some IACA funding. It’s all about spreading the wealth around. As for those legislative districts, the geographic contortion created by Michael Madigan’s gerrymandering just might be worthy enough to be put on display at the Art Institute of Chicago adjacent to those Pollock-esque state budgets, but that’s another matter.

The NEA and the NEH also operates under the same spread-the-favors-around–I mean wealth, mindset–which is why defenders of these groups cite federal funding for events such as the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Nevada and the Hip Hop Initiative in North Carolina as justification for these agencies.

Blogger on a self-funded trip to the Vicksburg battlefield

The NEH provided funding for Ken Burns’ acclaimed 1990 Civil War documentary that was broadcast on PBS, which is another success boasted by supporters of the NEH. Oh, Trump’s budget wants to eliminate for that network as well as NPR. Have you seen Burns’ Civil War? It’s fabulous. But what of the money for sales of Ken Burns’ Civil War book, or the Civil War DVDs and CDs? Or Civil War digital downloads? How much does the federal government get from those sales?

How much does Ken Burns collect?

Sure, NEA and NEH funding is a very small piece of federal spending–$148 million is the expenditure for this year. But proper budgeting means saying “No” a lot. America is wealthy–but not infinitely so.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

If you enjoy what you read at Da Tech Guy, don’t write to your member of Congress and request federal funding for us, please click on this link and subscribe.