The San Francisco city government is facing a $576 million budget deficit. Cuts have been proposed, some involving public health. For hours at a meeting of the city's Board of Supervisors, there were protests from advocates for homeless people, medical clinics that serve the poor, and many other worthy groups. So somebody proposed an alternative -- cut funding for the symphony and ballet. The matter hasn't been resolved, but would you like to be the opera representative, arguing to keep your funds, with people from endangered clinics in the room?
And what if those clinic workers and others like them say the arts have a lot of money, and that they largely serve an upscale audience? Arts advocates hate that kind of talk. It's not correct, they say. It's anti-arts, anti-intellectual.
But let's not underestimate how persistent those perceptions are, especially when reality at least partly seems to back them up.
The arts are going to need a better strategy. And in the end it's going to have to come from art itself, from the benefits art brings, in a world where popular culture -- which has gotten smart and serious -- also helps bring depth and meaning to our lives.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Still Looking for a Strategy
Greg Sandow, writing in the Wall Street Journal, says that while the Arts seem to have won a victory in reinstating the 50 Million in the latest stimulus, their strategy, (pointing out how much they help the economy with jobs and indirect spending,) probably won't work in the long run of this downturn: