Occupy Museums Response Pt. 1

October 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

This blog post is in response to Anna’s earlier post (disclosure: I am involved with the Occupy protests):

I actually think that the Occupy Museums group has a point. Rightly or wrongly, the arts have come to be seen as an elite cultural institution for the monied and educated, and I think that has a lot to do with the American funding model for the arts. In my opinion, the idea that institutions relying overwhelmingly on the generosity of wealthy private individuals would not end up catering to the desires and interests of those individuals is laughable. This has been a source of concern to me even before the Occupy movement started explicitly making the point that the wealthy have an inordinate amount of influence and control over society and the political process. On the other hand, it concerns me to hear this rhetoric rolled out, because in the past the same language of “elitism” has been disingenuously directed at the art establishment for very different ends and by very different people (Jesse Helms, mutter, mutter). The consequence of that past critique was that government funding for the arts essentially dried up, leaving the arts if anything MORE rather than less elitist.

Over the next few days, I’ll expand in a more thoughtful manner on these ideas, but I thought I’d start with an update: while corporations, the government, banks, and even some development nonprofits (I won’t name names) come in for regular excoriation, the people on the streets in Cincinnati are actually pretty well attuned to the reality of how the arts are funded and don’t see the arts institutions themselves as problematic — only their funding model. Marches past concert halls and museums here have essentially ignored those institutions.

One last thing: it looks like even in the post-revolution future, the arts will face some familiar problems:

“But how is the Arts and Culture committee actually supporting itself? Other than Kickstarter campaigns for projects like Occupy Halloween, the group is also allocated funds of around $200 each day from the General Assembly, the movement’s main decision-making body that meets daily. If the money is not used towards anything that day, then A&C loses the money. A debate ensued over whether or not Occupy Halloween could ask for $2,000 from the General Assembly for the parade, with many people arguing that was way too much money and the GA would never go for it. The meeting’s facilitator, Will, brought up a point that is all too familiar when it comes to arts funding: The GA has a tight budget and is less concerned with funding Arts and Culture than other more pressing issues.”




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