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You Say "Abolish Public Arts Funding" Like It's a Bad Thing

Post #1577 • November 26, 2012, 11:25 AM • 2 Comments

A July 2012 article in Reason should have gotten more discussion in the art world than it did: "The Internet vs. the NEA: Is Kickstarter a secret right-wing plot to undermine the National Endowment for the Arts?"

In the wake of [its] successes, Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler tried to contextualize his company's rapid growth in an interview with Talking Points Memo. "It is probable Kickstarter will distribute more money this year than the NEA," he said, referring to the 47-year-old federally funded National Endowment for the Arts. Strickler sounded almost apologetic: "But maybe it shouldn't be that way. Maybe there's a reason for the state to strongly support the arts."

Such concerns have been brewing for a while now. In April 2011, a writer for the Seattle alternative weekly The Stranger worried that "Kickstarter might start pulling money away from nonprofits and charitable organizations, becoming a way for entertainers and creative-minded people to exploit their fans." In October 2011, an artist named Steve Lambert suggested in an interview published by the University of California Institute for Research in the Arts that Kickstarter was a "right-wing paradigm" that could ultimately serve as a pretext for abolishing public arts funding completely.

Someone apparently thinks that accepting voluntary contributions from fans of your work in order to make more of it is "exploitation," but coercing money out of the public via taxation to accomplish the same thing is just dandy. As I've noted before, eliminating the NEA is not a high fiscal priority, but every time I give it more consideration, the case in its favor looks weaker.

Comment

1.

David Thompson

November 26, 2012, 7:47 PM

Someone apparently thinks that accepting voluntary contributions from fans of your work in order to make more of it is ‘exploitation,’ but coercing money out of the public via taxation to accomplish the same thing is just dandy.

It's remarkable just how often that is the default assumption. Of course funding models like the terribly "right-wing" Kickstarter can entirely bypass the taste-correcting caste. Indeed, in time, they may even make that particular group of people redundant. And if your taste-correcting caste is anything like ours, that's all to the good, I'd say.

2.

Alan Pocaro

November 27, 2012, 12:39 AM

A remarkable 46 percent of the projects publicized on Kickstarter’s site in 2011—11,836 in all—attained their funding goals.

Given that just shy of 50% of the people who put together a clear, specific proposal, not muddled by reams of artspeak, got what they needed, and the funders got something out of it as well, I'd say they're doing a job well done. I wonder what percentage of applicants to standard non-profits get a slice of the pie? If my track record is anything to go by, its probably pretty low. Ahem, Warhol Foundation... I'm looking at you. Democratize the means of production, go Kickstarter!

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