Friday, May 28, 2010

Pitching Arts to Conservatives II

A while back, I wrote a missive (aimed particularly at Scott Walters) about how to win public support for government arts funding again:
Kingston's stance right now is, the NEA is useless to my district, so it is way easy for me to rag on it. After all, how many people in my district have any connection to or value of the NEA? Why not kick it around? What would I lose?

And if you look at the political math, if the NEA's money is going mostly to large metropolises, then it will be undersupported in the House. And probably the Senate too.
As if on cue, there's been a fight a-brewin' amongst the mainstream blogosphere about New York's status as a cultural capital -- are we snobs and cultural imperialists, or victims of our own success? It started here; if you want to follow the conversation, go read Andrew Sullivan's blog (you have to be already -- how are you not?). Here's the post that stuck out to me, though:
The question to me is not whether centers of power or culture or economy are good or bad, but whether there are appropriate checks and balances on their influence, and whether that influence then results in (cultural/political/economic) growth across the country or whether it simply saps the rest of the country of its resources. Is New York robbing the rest of the country of its art and culture? Probably not. Likely quite the contrary occurs. Wall Street, on the other hand, is a lot more culpable when it comes to our financial situation and the drain bad finance has placed on people on Main Street as it were – and there is certainly a problem with letting one industry, largely centered in one city, become so dominant.
I don't know if New York can be said to rob the rest of the country of its art and culture, but I do think New York can be said to be robbing the rest of the country of its cultural support. Here's a breakdown of the NEA's music grants from the stimulus bill by state:

Almost 25% went to NY and CA. 18% of the population (according to Wikipedia) gets about 31% of the arts funding, and Texas (more populous than NY and with its own strong arts tradition, especially in cities like Austin) is getting about 3% of the funding compared with being 7% of the population. (Interesting to note, by the way, that Illinois is equally out of favor, despite being home to Chicago, part of the"NYLACHI" that Scott's sworn his life to balance against.