Cultural void at the debates

September 26, 2008
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Check out this smart Los Angeles Times piece about the "well, duh" observation that culture won't be a subject for any question during the Presidential debates.

"If I were moderating tonight's TV debate," writes Times art critic Christopher Knight, " I'd start with one question and a follow-up, and I'd wait for the flop-sweat: 'Senator, name one great civilization in world history whose government was not a major arts patron. Now, what can we learn from this?'"

In the piece, Knight also drops in the interesting idea that the National Endowment for the Arts (which, he notes, has an annual budget equal to "not quite five hours’ worth of the Iraq occupation") only allow its art museum exhibition grants for shows that are open free to the public.

Your thoughts?

And what arts questions would you ask if you were moderating the debate?
  • Interesting debate question - even at the state and local level.
  • Great point Lou! I have to say that funding for the arts would never have gotten to be such a political football had the requestors for funds used some common sense and not tried to use those funds for projects that would most certainly have been patently offensive to the masses.

    It was Mr. Spock that uttered these words: The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. While that attitude would fly in the face of civil rights and rightfully so, it certainly applies to arts funding, which many would view as optional.
  • I am afraid that if the candidates were truly thinking, they might shoot back a reply something like Aside from civic monuments and royal portraiture, the largest patrons of the arts were in fact private individuals and the Catholic Church. Most great civilizations of the past produced objects and experiences at public expense which we now call art, but at the time were objects of utility or the state religion.

    However, this fact does not get the government off the hook for providing some support for the arts as part of its role as guaranteeing a certain basic standard of living for its citizens. In particular, public funding for art in public places should be supported, as it conveys to all of us a sense of who we want to be aesthetically, culturally and emotionally.
  • Interesting discussion. Before I read the LA Times article, I thought, I want to ask each of the candidates to tell about the last live theatre piece (or live dance or music concert) he went to see. I would also like to know what he reads for fun, or what he would read for fun if he had any free time.

    However, the questions in Knight's article are MUCH more thought-provoking, especially the one about rebuilding the Iraqi National Museum and the one about giving artists who donate their work a tax deduction same as collectors get, so now I feel a little silly.

    But I'd still like to know.

    Hope Baugh

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