Arts Disconnected
By A.D. Freudenheim

20 April 2003

“There is never a perfect time for the arts, except when the seats are filled, the galleries jammed, the music is in the air and art erupts to fill the empty places of our world.”[1]
“The arts community's best defense is its economic development argument. ... Economic development officers use them to recruit new businesses. These same businesses and recruiters need to step up with arts leaders to make sure the arts are held harmless and can continue to contribute to the vitality of metro Detroit, and all of Michigan.”[2]
“State lawmakers should not let the curtain fall on the Colorado Council on the Arts.”[3]

If newspapers are the public voices for their communities’ interests, then one might imagine arts organizations would be in great shape as a result of the advocacy on their behalf. The above statements are taken from editorials in three different newspapers in major U.S. markets, and on the strength of them, it would be easy to think that public funding for the arts has been and will continue to be a serious economic priority in America.

Yet the substance of these editorials focuses on how dire the arts funding situation is in the communities served by each of these respective newspapers; just a look at the headlines reveals the bigger picture. As the economy has stagnated over the last couple of years, newspapers and magazines across the U.S. have featured a number of articles noting the tremendous economic power that arts organizations can wield in large cities and small towns. These articles have offered up many of the more traditional arguments about the plain-old importance of culture to ensuring the health and vitality of the citizenry, along with a slew of other, more general editorials decrying the cuts in funding from public sources. [My own much-abridged bibliography of such articles is available here.]

There is clearly a disconnect between these very public calls for support of the arts and the reality of how citizens and legislators must actually think and act about the issue. Despite some 40-plus articles (by my low-balled count) about the need for arts funding, cuts to various governmental art sources have proceeded because of growing budget deficits across the nation. Arts funding does not appear to be a significant priority for tax dollars at a time when there are other basic services to support – or so the legislators must believe, along with the citizens who (re)elect them. Although it does seem that, thus far, few organizations have been forced to close their doors, many seem to be scaling back the scope of their public offerings – and in the case of performing arts organizations in particular, revamping and revising the number of concerts and productions – while perhaps hoping that individuals will come out of the woodwork, emerging as saviors at this moment of fiscal crisis.[4]

What I find much more fascinating is the interplay between the media, the citizenry, and our government. This dynamic is already complicated; just look at the way that the U.S. media covered the Iraq war, bouncing vigorously back and forth between triumphalism and fear (excluding Fox News, which can be credited with being the perpetual triumphalist), exhibiting a kind of schizophrenia as to whether they truly hoped that the U.S. would win ... or actually desired another Viet Nam and the opportunity to say “we told you so.” In the case of the arts – and funding of the arts specifically – the media’s greatest impact may be in continuing to facilitate a transfer of power and responsibility from the bodies of public governance to the private sector. With city councils and legislatures rigorously not applying the principles of deficit spending to support for the arts, and despite the presumption of the Vox Populi speaking loudly through their local media, rarely is the government swayed to increase its arts funding. Or, as one reporter put it:

Everyone knows the joke about government spending: A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money. ... In that light, the stakes are paltry when it comes to what state governments spend on the arts -- although in these days of dwindling public treasuries the talk is more about what states are planning not to spend on the arts.[5]

Whatever one thinks of public funding for the arts, this is as sure a sign as any that there are limitations to our collective ability to be manipulated by the media, and in turn to manipulate the government. After all, if the news is cut through with liberal bias, then editorial coverage proclaiming the importance of art is unsurprising. Instead what is remarkable is how much these words appear to fall on deaf ears.

[1]“Art in the balance,” Editorial, The Seattle Times,
10 April 2003
[2] “Arts community now must scramble to maintain funding
levels, Editorial, Detroit Free Press, 7 November 2002
[3] “Keep minimum arts funding,” Editorial, Denver Post,
28 March 2003
[4] See for example, “Cash influx keeps S.J. ballet alive –
for now,” by Anita Amirrezvani and Mike Antonucci, San
Jose Mercury News
, 5 February 2003; “SFMoMA to cut back
on exhibits; Endowment frozen after losses on market,” by
Erin McCormick, San Francisco Chronicle, 26 February 2003.
This should clearly be understood as my interpretation of
the intent of such coverage.
[5] “States, arts at odds; Governors are trying to slash --
and in some cases eliminate -- grants to help cover budget
shortfalls,” by Mike Boehm, Los Angeles Times, 26 February 2003
Copyright 2003, by A.D. Freudenheim. May not be used in whole or part without written permission. However, you may link to this page as desired! Contact A. D. Freudenheim for further information.
This page is part of: The Truth As I See It.

An Abridged Bibliography of Articles on Arts Funding, 2002-2003
In Chronological Order

“Feeling the Pinch; City culture centers adjust to tighter belts,” by Karin Lipson, Newsday, 1 August 2002

“N.Y. Arts Institutions Feel the Budget Squeeze,” by Karin Lipson (Newsday), Los Angeles Times, 3 August 2002

“Cultural groups worried as county eyes funding cuts,” Rochester Business Journal, 9 August 2002

“Denver Art Museum to reduce staff, budget,” by Robert Weller, Associated Press State & Local Wire, 23 August 2002

“Budget, jobs cut at art museum 10 percent of staff, $ 1 million slashed,” by Kyle MacMillan, The Denver Post, 23 August 2002

“Places Where the Buck Doesn't Even Linger,” by Virginia Groark, The New York Times, 25 August 2002

“County Budget Crisis,” by Jack Garner, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 27 August 2002

“Visits to Smithsonian museums drop 29 percent,” by Fulvio Cativo, The Dallas Morning News, 3 September 2002

“Art venues find funding, and visitors, hard to come by,” by Kris Axtman, The Christian Science Monitor, 9 September 2002

“Escondido council OKs $7.3 million arts center budget,” by Daniel J. Chacon, The San Diego Union-Tribune, 20 September 2002

“Wall Street Brings Cuts to Carnegie; Sinking Endowment Value Forces Museums to Squeeze $4 Million from Budgets,” by Bob Hoover, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 11 October 2002

“Economic Woes Rolling Back Dollars for the Arts, Museums,” by Mark St. John Erickson, The Daily Press (VA), 17 October 2002

“Museums Team Up to Foot the Bill and Find the Space,” by Carol Vogel, The New York Times, 17 October 2002

“Wall Street struggles being felt in fine arts community,” by Todd Spangler, Associated Press Worldstream, 24 October 2002

“Bear market for the arts; Deficits saddle cultural institutions as philanthropic, corporate donations shrink,” by Tom Sabulis, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 24 October 2002

“The art of surviving a recession; the stage is set for even more belt-tightening as museums, theaters and other arts groups try to stay solvent,” by John Marshall, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 24 October 2002

“Arts community now must scramble to maintain funding levels,” Editorial, Detroit Free Press, 7 November 2002

“New York Town Drafts Warhol, Serra to Revive Depressed Economy,” by Nina Siegal, Bloomberg News, 21 November 2002

“Cash influx keeps S.J. ballet alive – for now,” by Anita Amirrezvani and Mike Antonucci, San Jose Mercury News, 5 February 2003

“Reframing the Museum of Art,” Editorial, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, 10 February 2003

“DIA lays off 55 employees to trim costs,” by Mark Stryker and Frank Provenzano, Detroit Free Press, 21 February 2003

“Arts institute cuts staff by 55; says future exhibits safe,” by Joy Hakanson Colby, The Detroit News, 21 February 2003

“Comrades In Arts Cultural and Corporate Groups Hope Partnership Will Boost Performance,” by Maureen Dezell, The Boston Globe, 23 February 2003

“America's arts in crisis as hard-up states threaten to suspend all funding,” by David Usborne, The Independent (UK), 25 February 2003

“States, arts at odds; Governors are trying to slash -- and in some cases eliminate -- grants to help cover budget shortfalls,” by Mike Boehm, Los Angeles Times, 26 February 2003

“SFMoMA to cut back on exhibits; Endowment frozen after losses on market,” by Erin McCormick, San Francisco Chronicle, 26 February 2003

“Museum cuts back as funds shrink,” by Jack Fischer, San Jose Mercury News, 27 February 2003

“Fund Raising Proving Tough,” by Gary E. Salazar, Albuquerque Journal, 3 March 2003

“Governor proposes cutting cultural funding in half,” by Mark Stryker, Detroit Free Press, 7 March 2003

“Sluggish Economy Cuts Funding for Local Groups,” by Barbara Zuck, The Columbus Dispatch, 9 March 2003

“What the mayor giveth he also taketh away,” by Geraldine Baum, Los Angeles Times, 10 March 2003

“Arts groups want help from S.J. mayor,” by Mike Antonucci, San Jose Mercury News, 14 March 2003

“Reach of arts may be cut short as state takes hatchet to funds,” by Jim Beckerman, The Record (Bergen, NJ), 17 March 2003

“The money's the thing; artistic community makes case for its impact on region,” by David A. Sylvester, San Jose Mercury News, 17 March 2003

“Keep minimum arts funding,” Editorial, The Denver Post, 28 March 2003

“US arts funding in crisis,” by Jason Edward Kaufman, The Art Newspaper, April 2003

“They earn that cash,” by Ed Quillen, The Denver Post, 8 April 2003

“Degas added $15 million, DIA says,” by Frank Provenzano, Detroit Free Press, 8 April 2003

“Art in the balance,” Editorial, The Seattle Times, 10 April 2003

“Winterthur cuts staff, hikes prices,” by Jennifer Goldblatt, The News Journal (DE), 11 April 2003

“Museums cut staff, hours to keep up with expansions, acquisitions,” by Robert Weller, Associated Press State & Local Wire, 12 April 2003

“Tricounty arts groups up in arms over state's severe funding cuts,” by Gail Meadows, The Miami Herald, 14 April 2003

“Don’t retreat on arts,” Editorial, Orlando Sentinel, 14 April 2003

“Loss of the Arts and Humanities Will Impoverish Democracy,” by Francine Curro Cary, Business Wire, 18 April 2003