Punk Rock Didn't Need Our Money, Nor Should Other Artists

Public funding of the arts has propped up a culture of elitism and mediocrity for too long. It is time for a change.

I can already hear the collective gasp of the art community. “How dare you suggest the era of publicly-funded art come to an end?”

It's actually quite simple. Public art funding has been the crutch for hangers-on and entitled elitists for generations. It is time they stand on their own merit and answer to those from whom their handout has been taken. It is not acceptable to expect families with children to feed to contribute to the career of some distant artist whose work they may not even like, or ever see for that matter. Even staunch advocates for public funding of the arts have asked themselves how arguing for public funding gets anywhere when the argument seems so self-serving.

As an artist, I find it offensive that there should be a system that props up people who are not willing to work hard and make sacrifices to achieve their dreams. Being an artist is not an easy choice to make, and the struggle to support oneself while creating and building a following for your art is certainly difficult; but it is a choice that is made by an individual. The artist should bear the responsibility for their own success or failure, however hard that may be.

The Punk Rock movement did not ask the cultural establishment for a handout, or even a place to play. They founded their own clubs, recorded in cheap studios, and distributed tapes and hand-made advertising themselves. By most people's standards at the time, they produced a product that was unmarketable outside their own scene. But, they created that scene, and within it, a system and a market for their vision that spilled out into pop culture; influencing bands to this day.

So many artists attempt to convince you of the good things the arts do and what a great return on your investment they are. If this is the case, why the need for funding by force? Is it because much of what is promoted in the art establishment is intended to provoke rather than inspire? If the arts are meant to offend, how can anyone be surprised that the taxpayer would object to funding them?

In a Salon article, I came across this gem from Douglas McClennan:

It's not about opposing arts funding, it's about actively seeking to defund the arts.

This is typical semantic double-speak meant to cloak the fact that there's no real point to the argument other than “I want funding for the arts, therefor I should have it.” Worse even than the lack of integrity, is the dishonesty this system cultivates. Public funding of the arts creates a mindset in the artist that it is more honorable to take a handout from the NEA than to become successful in the free market economy. The system breeds resentment against accepting private patronage of the arts as having 'sold out'.

It leads to unmitigated hackery in the form of anti-capitalist, ant-American, anti-liberty themes in art that are repugnant to the very taxpayers being forced to fund the art. We must get away from this idea that artists are entitled to a handout and help them learn to treat their work as much like a business as they do a personal passion.

For whatever reason, it has always been the position of the art elite, and frankly the least successful in the arts, to say that one must suffer for their art. If that were truly the case, there wouldn't be a booming business in grant writing for the arts or a constant outcry for defense of the NEA. One can surely suffer for their art without the added stress of sucking up to committees and grant writers, or making it everyone else's  problem by forcing them to pay for it.

In America, an arts bureaucracy has grown up, become bloated and dictated what kind of art the public will consume. There is no way for a system where people are expected to prostrate themselves before an elite few for the money and prestige they can confer, at no expense to themselves, to work. Honesty and integrity are smothered by elitism and pandering; and the state of culture suffers.


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