Monday, November 17, 2008

Oh Boy, Man the Cultural War Battle Stations

This combination is going to be hard on the Arts.

We now have a minority opposition party whose desperate flailings during a failed election campaign pointed towards a super-amped revival of culture war rhetoric the likes of which we haven't seen in while.

We have very tight economic times coming, and legislatures will desperately try to find ways of increasing revenues without looking like greedy pigs.

A few weeks ago, Geoff Edgers brought us the news that the Mass Cultural Council was coming under scrutiny by the State Auditor. The Mass Cultural Council responded to the charges. (At the New Journal of Aesthetic research, there is an overview, with relevant links.)

This is just the beginning.

My fellow artists, get ready for the more stories like the following from a Houston television station. And let's hope we learned something from the last rounds of these things.

Art does come in many colors.

"We disseminate over nine million dollars a year, more than 250 grants," said (Jonathan)Glus (Houston Arts Alliance).

But we all know the color of money is green.

"It seems as if we've created a piggy bank that other people wanted to get their fingers in," said Houston Controller Annise Parker.

The Houston Art Alliance gets more than a million dollars in tax money just to make sure the artists who get grants spend the money properly and that we get art that brings in tourists.

"They do not get final payment until they have completed the work," Glus told us.

One guy did. Seventy-five-hundred bucks for a series of poems on how four city art pieces look during different times of the day. He got the grant in April 2007, got four checks, the last check in June of this year. But a year and a half later after getting the first money, not a single poem has been made public, even though the artist bills include $1,000 for printing.

"I haven't seen this and I want to look into this and I'll get back to you on it," said Glus.

It's hard to argue that theatres and museums and tax-supported festivals don't bring tourists to town. They do.

But a grant to boost lesbian puppet tourism?

"I can honestly say, Wayne, I've never heard of lesbian puppet tourism," Glus said.

We hadn't either, but it was Jonathan Glus who authorized the final payment for the puppet shows.

Oh boy.

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