Public Spenders’ Soft-Spot for Nonsense
The “arts community” has drawn pretty tight ideological lines around itself, but there are those of us with pretensions to art, in some medium or other, with a different understanding of the world. As such a one, I think Governor Carcieri was wrong to give in and cancel his plans “to eliminate a program that has produced millions of dollars for high-profile, and sometimes controversial, public art installations across Rhode Island.”
That’s millions of dollars that have been tacked onto public construction projects as a requirement. Projects like a courthouse sound system playing chirping birds.
Now that the governor has caved, subsidy supporters are targeting his plan to cut the $700,000 of state arts funding from the budget. According to Lt. Gov. Liz Roberts, the “arts economy in Rhode Island” employs 12,000, which means that cutting public funding would cost them each, on average, about $60 per year.
I do agree with the value of having artistic and cultural displays in public spaces, but the following quotation strikes me as missing an important point:
“Public art is a very special thing … What would the world be like if we removed all of these from our environment? It’d basically be like visiting East Germany prior to the Berlin Wall coming down,” Rhode Island School of Design President John Maeda told supporters during an afternoon State House ceremony. “It’d be a place without feeling, without emotion, without hope.”
I’d be surprised if the state couldn’t find artists willing to donate their work for public viewing free of charge or donors willing to pay for art in the public square. If artists are driven, and the local society is desirous, the sharing will manifest.