AIArt Inquisition

Art Inquisition: Why fund the arts?

So art is pretty and inspiring and all that, but let’s cut to the chase: Why should the community of taxpayers who are not directly involved in the arts support them?” A fine question, with a whole pile of answers I could give. And “The Arts” is a pretty broad category. So let’s take a pretty broad example.

Minnesota loves the arts, and looks like The Place To Be if you’re makin’ with the artyness since the state is often tops in art spending across the nation.  “In fact, Minnesotans love funding the arts so much that voters in 2008 approved a constitutional amendment to divert a portion of sales tax revenue for 25 years to arts and the environment.” Compare that to neighboring Wisconsin, which hovers around the bottom of the list for cultural spending and seems to be losing even more money as folks dash across the state line for a shot in the art. A study referenced in the above-linked article showed that “nonprofit arts groups and their audiences directly spent $535 million in Wisconsin in 2010 versus an estimated $1 billion in Minnesota.” Money talks… and is walking right across the border.

But let’s go back and read that article I linked at the beginning of the post, since it articulates a lot of what I’d like to say a hell of a lot better and more concisely than I think I could. While often not-for-profit, the arts are revenue-positive and contribute to the economy of their own accord, bring money-spending people into the areas in which they exist, and promote creative thinking. Arts and culture was the fastest-growing philanthropic cause in 2012, but it’s still the second-smallest share of the eight categories identified in the Giving USA report on philanthropy in America. An LA Times article notes that, due to inflation, donors would have had to give another $7.3 million USD simply to match giving levels from 2007. The BCA National Survey of Business Support for the Arts also reports an uptick in business giving, but notes that it’s basically a “rebound” to levels of funding seen in… 2006. Woohoo!

So what do you think? Do arts programs deserve funding as something more than just “nice to have”? Are arts grants worth it? How should arts funding be distributed? How can we better publicize both available money and the work that is created as a result? Who should be funding the arts, or where should the money come from? Is arts funding “worth it”? How do you support the arts? Have you ever received a grant or other funding in support of your work? How do you support your art habit?

The ART Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Mad Art Lab community. It used to appear on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 3pm ET… maybe we’ll just try for Wednesdays this go ’round. Make with the comments!

Beth Voigt

Beth is a graphic designer in Chicago, a superhero in her own mind, and absolutely nothing on TV. She wrangles fonts professionally, pummels code amateurishly, and has been known to shove fire in her face for fun. Fond of volunteering, late-night bursts of productivity, and making snacks, she dislikes grocery shopping and sticky public transit and is only on her second smartphone. Her opinion is that you should try everything twice; if you don't like it, you were probably doing it wrong the first time around. If external links are your thing, here are links to Twitter and Instagram, and you can support her ongoing weirdness by buying her a coffee or six.

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