Monday, September 12, 2011

ARTS POLICY: Top Down or Bottom Up?

Here's an interesting story (h/t Howard Sherman):
Mayor Rob Ford is planning a major overhaul of City Hall arts funding that would increase grants for cultural groups and slash art programs run by city staff.
Obviously, the detail matters. But it's also illuminating to demonstrate the difference between the two types of arts funding.

For newer readers of my blog, a long time ago I wrote about the Obama Administration's early overture towards the arts: including arts organizations in the 9/11 Day of Service. It led to a slew of abusive commenters piling on about the government take-over of the arts, which lead to a fairy in-depth look at how government can relate to the arts, by posing some hypothetical governments attempting to "control" the arts through the NEA:
Government A buys art organizations and appoints NEA officers to run them.
Government B gives the NEA powers to license performances: unlicensed performances are made illegal.
Government C passes rules saying that the NEA can only fund Pro-America productions. The NEA evaluates grants based on their content.
Government D creates a web listing of currently existing arts-charity programs, to help donors find them.
So, Toronto has shifted its policies to de-emphasize programs it runs, and emphasize external organizations. I'm curious to see how that shakes out in practice.

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