Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Changing Role of Government in the Arts

So this week I'm catching up on reading and looking for references to cite in forth coming papers/assignments due in the next month or so. One of the papers we had to read was this one, 'The Changing Role of Government in the Arts' - 'Changes in Public Policy under Reagan and Thatcher' it's taken from the book 'Privatising Culture' by Chin-tao Wu.

Although I've not found references that I can use yet in my current projects, I did take something profound from it. I'll be the first to confess that I've always considered myself a 'Tory' - certainly from the days of Thatcher. Although voting in each election, I've not always followed that way and in fact the last was not for the current administration. Rather ironically when I lived in America I followed the Republicans (Conservatives in the USA), and rather controversially was a registered Republican in the state of Kentucky. I never make a point of expressing my political lean publicly, like ever it falls under that taboo umbrella of religion and many other (lets not talk about with friends subjects).

However in this case reading this it really makes me disband any allegiances I have what so ever. The premise of this paper reports the facts of Privatizing the Arts. Like many other areas the government chose to make budget cuts in, this was hit the hardest. Reagan's idea was to start offering pre-tax profit cuts to big business if they donated, or sponsored the arts; thus moving the expense from the public, to the private sector. He did this rather well, and held many fund raisers and created a corporate culture of Arts spending and supporting. This doesn't sound that bad, but once then the business look for revenue by either buying or selling art, or indeed dictating and restricting the enjoyment then it suffers. Like any US - UK government changes one follows, and indeed Thatcher followed suit.

One example with rather amused me was when Peter Palumbo (then Chairman of the Arts council) was looking to seek funds, ventured into cash in on the collection of our Art. He didn't loose sight of the market value of the collection, tried to sell a Francis Bacon painting (est. £3.5 million) but didn't, this wasn't due to the fact it was public property, or an insult to a 40 year collection. Just the fact the proceeds would have gone to the Treasury. A rather Ironic twist on the whole Privatizing cultures that had been developed.

I suppose all of this is just a small piece of a huge picture, something I'll never comprehend. What it does leave me feeling is dishearten and numb to what a mess our countries are making of our society. In terms of debt, which is where all of this comes from. Then we can paint a simple picture. If I had a leaking roof, I wouldn't start in the basement. I wouldn't replace the carpet, taking it up putting a cheaper one down. I wouldn't start by re-plastering the ceiling above, nor replace that carpet above. Or indeed the ceiling above that and so on. I'd climb onto the roof of the house. I'd find the hole and fix it. I wouldn't look at moving the house to a country where it doesn't rain. Or fix a plaster (band aid) over the hole, I'd make a proper full on attempt at it. SO why, why do we not look at the 'World Banks' and start looking at the top of house, see if we can find the holes there. I am being too simplistic or ideal?

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