More: Hawthorne, Melville, and Dickinson received no government funds in support of their writing. The list can be expanded to many thousands. Those who need government money to be creative ought to find meaningful employment elsewhere.
I lived in D.C. for 21 years, and having seen the place up close, I imagine that very few people like the idea of a leaner federal government less than I do. I'd be ruthless in cutting public broadcasting, for example, which has turned into a weird subsidy for rich, educated white people.But I'm not sure that most people who criticize the NEA understand what it actually does. I'd humbly suggest checking out Dana Gioia's recent defense of the organization, how the pittances it gives out help organizations attract necessary funding from states and private sources. And I think most people who think the NEA is a slush fund for the talentless might wish to look at where much of the money actually goes. For example, at the American Shakespeare Center in rural Virginia, actors perform the work of Shakespeare and his contemporaries under their original staging conditions in a replica of Shakespeare's first theater. It's one of the best theater and literary experiences in the country, and the NEA helps pay for the tickets that allow students to experience it. In this case, it's undeniably an education subsidy.I think many conservatives would be surprised by the extent to which the NEA gives kids access to the culture they wish the kids were getting in school. Field trips to museums and theaters sure beats letting them fart around on their phones for the umpteenth time.
Well, I interviewed Dana when he was appointed. It's one thing when you have someone of his caliber in charge. Another when you don't. Why doesn't the state of Virginia subsidize that theater?
Why does it matter where the pittance comes from? Money is fungible. In many cases, the states are funding these things. Gioia has specifically pointed out that the pittance from the NEA acts as a multiplier that helps arts organizations get more help from states and private institutions.And the whole "when you have someone of his caliber in charge" argument doesn't quite make sense. Gioia hasn't been NEA chairman for eight years, yet the NEA is subsidizing educational opportunities for kids that include formal poetry recitals, classical music, and Shakespeare performances--all the canonical, Western culture-type-stuff that traditionalists (such as myself) and cultural conservatives have long claimed to champion. I'm willing to put up with a few checks being cut to morons making farcical performance art if it means programs for the high art and culture that's utterly missing from our schools.I'll fully admit this isn't an opinion I held a few years ago--but it's one I hold now, based on an understanding of how the NEA actually works and what it actually underwrites.
There was no such thing when I was a kid. People called teachers introduced me and my classmates to poetry and painting and music and encouraged us to go to museums and concerts. I still have a taste for such things and pay for tickets and memberships and the like. I am sure many of my former classmates could say much the same thing. When was the last time some TV network broadcast a Shakespeare play? Or an opera? Remember NBC Opera Theatre? Bernstein's Young People's Concerts? We used to do quite well without the feds needing to be called in.