No More Cuts to the Arts

Re: No More Cuts to the Arts

Not sure if this is the place for politics but it’s the same down south - just this morning, there’s talk of closing the National Museums for the month of January as the budget has been cut and there isn’t sufficient funding anymore.

Where did the money go? To pay off the gambling debts of financial institutions and big property developers in Ireland and Europe and probably North America as well..

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If the Arts can’t support themselves why should my taxes be used to support them?

When I go to a session it is usually a self supporting activity. I finance my travel there and back, I have already provided myself with an instrument to play and, apart from the occasional plate of sandwiches or free pint I expect no payment.

What amazes me is the con trick by which people who enjoy elitist artistic endeavours expect people who don’t enjoy them to pay towards their cost. It is quite clever.

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I doubt the arts has ever been a self-supporting activity - but it would be a great world if it were. The arts can often be pretty cutting-edge, especially in conjunction with other professional fields, but if it wasn’t funded then a lot of potentially good stuff would never happen. For example, I’ve been able to work in a hospital and that wouldn’t be funded from any medical budget, but it still makes life better for babies and parents.

The only money-making aspect of the arts I can think of is in advertising - but that’s not really art if it’s in service of shifting a product as opposed to for its own sake.

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When it is all of our tax money, I am into priorities.

If there are people going hungry, then art can wait.
If there is a shortage of medicine, then art can wait.
If Johnny cannot read and write, then art can wait.

My world would be left quite empty without art around me, but not
nearly as empty as a world left in the darkness of ignorance and poverty.
I would rather help someone to support, feed and care for themselves than play
them a tune or give them a free pass to a museum (I oversimplify) .

Now, let’s talk about who decides WHO deserves our taxes to support their art.
("My tax dollars paid for THAT?!?!?")
;-)

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The arts are the soul of humanity.
When we begin sacrificing the arts for profits that should tell us something.

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100% agree with ronald.ellison above.

Mr Ellison points out that he has provided himself with an instrument. If he bought that instrument brand new in the UK, he would have paid 20% tax on top of the purchase price.

So not only is there no subsidy, there is actually a tax on musicians. Meanwhile, opera goers and the like receive a subsidy on their ticket prices.

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The arts may be the soul of humanity, but when it comes to measuring them against food, health and shelter, they’re not really a priority, and rightly so. This is the first worldiest of first world problems. ;)

It really is a luxury, that we can think like that. We had a homeless man die of exposure on a freezing night, within shouting distance of the seat of government, a couple of nights back. Would I rather this actual problem was addressed before subsiding JohnJoe McMickey’s CD of obscure west-portlaoise hornbarns? Damn right I would. And rightly so.

The arts survived with and without subsidy, patronage, and bursary for decades. There’s no fear of the arts collapsing because some musicians may have to pay for their own projects.

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I’m all for setting priorities so perhaps I should clarify my comment that "the arts are the soul of humanity" with a more encompassing perspective.
So here’s a scenario,
(1) first we withdraw public support for the arts & close all the national museums because we don’t have the money and the withdrawal of those meager funds would meet little resistance, then
(2) we cut our education budget because we can’t afford it and educators usually don’t fight back, next
(3) we quibble over health care costs; those that can afford it pay dearly; those that can’t, well they can’t fight back,
(4) we ignore our deteriorating infrastructure, bridges and roadways in the hopes that no one will notice or care because we really can’t fund them, and oh,
(5) there’s certainly no alms left in the coffers for the poor and homeless but then they’re uneducated and unable to fight back.
All the while, corporate profits and CEO salaries skyrocket; vast sums of money are available for the greatest war machines in history… Oh wait, oops! Those people can and do fight back!
Oh my! Sorry for that tirade, we know that could never happen in today’s "civilized" world!

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It’s the same on our side of the pond too.

Music is not something that is supposed to make you money. Music is something you spend money on. It’s true for musicians, too - I said on another thread not a week ago that the artistic value of the music I perform and the money I make performing it are often inversely proportional.

There will always be the rich to support the arts (especially here in the first world ;) ) but I do think a good case can be made that it’s beneficial for everybody for some tax dollars to support the arts too, independent of what makes a buck.

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I really think that it depends upon what the money is spent. I personally dislike the hundreds of millions of pounds of government money spent on keeping just a individual paintings in the UK over the past few decades, when many children are not even provided with proper music tuition at school. So I don’t at all mind cuts to any budget used for those kinds of purpose, which appear to simple serve a cultural elite at the expense of the taxpayer. However, money spent on subsidizing film production over the last decades has had a role to play in creating an industry that makes enormous amounts for the country, is arguably a financial success story, and has also enriched the country culturally.

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For some of us, art is more important than food and shelter. To put material things over your art shows how much you appreciate your muse.

Creation is one of the last original things we have left.

I have no views on politics or taxes. An artist will create art regardless.

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Our young fiddle player just graduated university this December and is in Ecuador now on an "arts" grant researching how music education can enrich the lives of youngsters growing up in impoverished conditions and open other educational opportunities to them.
As a mathematician, physicist and musician, I am a first-hand beneficiary of the part that the arts have played in education and yet those are the first programs that suffer when the budget ax falls on education.

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Just as a matter of interest, how many of you who’ve posted negatively about state funding of the arts have actually read the first link in Slainte’s OP?

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I’m aware that many recordings of traditional Irish music released in the Republic of Ireland in the last decade were funded by artscouncil.ie.

As far as I know, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland funded these recordings:
Hidden Fermanagh Vol.1 - https://thesession.org/recordings/680
Hidden Fermanagh Vol.2 - https://thesession.org/recordings/1110
Northern Box by Dean Warner - https://thesession.org/recordings/3402

Please add a few more recordings to the list.

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In my experience, there’s often huge variance between people involved in cultural and artistic endeavors and how they fund their activities. Many are happy to plough their own furrow and view that if a project is worth doing, it should stand financially on it’s own feet. At the other end are institutions and businesses such as publishers, that seem to be always seeking funding for this, that and the other. They’re into what’s sometimes called ‘grant farming’. Then in the middle are a range of other types who try and get a bit of money here & there - usually it’s not worth the latter’s time & effort as they have to put more work into getting the funding that it’s worth. Hence the growth of grant farmers etc.

One of the attractions of the trad music scene is that it has traditionally flown a bit below the above.

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There are different kinds of arts grants and funds; many of the grants support small collectives or groups that play away behind the scenes and bring others into the music or other arts scenes by assistance, instruments, guidance or teaching, or just being like-minded people who want to express themselves together. I’ve seen how far a grant of £300, for example, can go with these.
Other grants - and often what I would consider massive amounts of money - go to line the pockets of already wealthy concerns who will bring a niche artiste to a select audience; many of the so-called ‘events’ in the Titanic quarter of Belfast spring to mind, where the television cameras film all the tuxedos and jewellery that are there more for themselves than the performance. Many of these events are heavily subsidised in their ticket prices, which are sold to people who can well afford them in the first place.
I want to see money being used to help those that have the talent, but not the money to develop it, rather than those who won’t buy full-price tickets for some international performer because they have to save for their next new car or foreign holiday.
If we’re going to cut arts funding, then cut from the ones who can well afford it, and use the available money to help those who can’t.

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+1 Footerin

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Cut sports funding too if you’re cutting the arts.

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It seems, upon reviewing the thread, that things went
a bit tangential from the third posting, re. taxes.

Regarding laying off on taxing the heck out of artists at every opportunity,
I would definately be pleased with that.

In the meantime, if we are cutting corners everywhere, how about
cutting them starting with the things that do NOT directly keep a lot
of people educated, employed, and functional?

"For some of us, art is more important than food and shelter. To put material things over your art shows how much you appreciate your muse."

To that, I would say that is YOUR choice, but I see that you do not include asking others to pay for it.
Much appreciated.

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Some years ago our ceilidh band was offered a gig in an troubled inner city area. Not the sort of area where a ceilidh band would be popular, we thought. A ska band, a reggae band or a hip-hop band maybe - but not a ceilidh band. But a gig is a gig, so we accepted it.

When we arrived there was no-one there apart from the organiser, who informed us that no tickets had be sold in advance but that tickets would be available on the door.

So in the absence of any punters, we just played tunesets to ourselves for about an hour or so. Suddenly, there were sounds of people arriving. However, it wasn’t punters but a Morris dance side who had been booked to give a demonstration of Morris dancing.

Well they duly gave their demonstration with only the organiser and the members of our band watching. When they left, we just went back to playing tunesets again until the end of the evening - with nary a single taker for the ceilidh.

Would our fee be paid we wondered? And if it were offered to us, would it be ethical to accept it?

However, the organiser cheerfully paid up without demur, with the aside: "Don’t worry, it’s all being paid for by the Arts Council!

No doubt there have been many other instances of the Arts Council wasting taxpayers money …

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Mix O’Lydian - glad you got paid when you had turned up to a gig you’d been contracted to do, but wow - that response of the organiser was disgusting, for the simple reason that if I organised a gig that no-one turned up to, and I was organising it, I’d be pretty ashamed. Was this thing publicised in any way? Can’t see this as anything other than box-ticking otherwise.

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"Abusus non tollit usus" Roughly translated, ‘the abuse of a thing does not take away its proper function’.

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"Meanwhile, opera goers and the like receive a subsidy on their ticket prices."

So those of us who enjoy opera are less deserving of subsidies than trad musicians? Opera is not only enjoyed by the rich, although I think both elitist opera lover and populist opera haters would love to perpetuate that particular misconception. Many here have spent far more on tickets to Lunasa or Flook than I have on going to see an opera or symphony. In fact, taking the former as an example, cheap seats to their upcoming show in Philly are $20, the same price as those for Opera Philadelphia’s next production.

As far as arts funding goes, I don’t think we can or should prioritize one art form over another. But one thing I will say is that having worked with people in the classical world vs. the traditional music world, the classical people are generally much more organized and business-like. Funding organizations like to see clear plans and detailed budgets when giving out money, so perhaps some of the funding gap is just due to overall stronger grant-writing skills. This is just in my experience, there are obviously organized and disorganized people of all stripes and YMMV. The people I’ve seen who are most successful in getting funding are not always the better musicians, but they are always the better managers.

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Having bought tickets for neither Lunasa nor any opera, I could not be certain; but I would suggest that if they are about the same price, it is because opera is heavily subsidised, and Lunasa is not.

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I’m not sure of the situation elsewhere, but in the US the gap between ticket revenues and cost is mainly supported by donations, both private and corporate. This is still subsidized by the government in a way, because these donations are tax-deductible, but it is not direct funding. Regardless, if rich people want to donate money to opera companies, I would support making those donations tax deductible as I would other performing arts organizations.

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gam, another big difference (caveat: I’m only talking America because I only know America) between something like Lunasa and an opera is that an opera is not a for-profit model, and therefore you don’t have profiteering types trying to make as much money as possible. Ticket prices are set as low as they can be and still pay for costs of production after donations, ‘both private and corporate’. A traditional, rock, pop, or what have you group that’s trying to cut a profit has to pay costs - travel costs too if it’s a touring organization, whereas in classical music usually everybody but the soloists and sometimes the conductor are local - plus there’re usually investors somewhere looking to make as much money as possible. And donations to a for-profit organization aren’t tax deductible. So at least here, you can see a symphony orchestra or an opera for an absurdly low price compared to what it costs to put the thing on, because there are people and corporations and government types who pony up the difference. I’m all for it, but then I’m a professional musician, and I admit to not holding an unbiased point of view.

Is the way things are done in the UK and/or Ireland similar to what I described?

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"Just as a matter of interest, how many of you who’ve posted negatively about state funding of the arts have actually read the first link in Slainte’s OP?"

Don’t need to if "state funding of the arts" means what it normally would mean in the English language.

A state has no funds, so let’s get that obfuscation out of the way.

I’m an artist. I’ve worked as an artist, both in the visual arts, and in music, my whole life. So it was dismaying to me when I talked to an artist friend who seriously stated that the government should give him a salary so that he can sit in his studio and paint whatever he wants all day.

My reply was "Do you really think that the plumber or construction worker or officer worker or waitress that works hard all day to make ends meet should have money taken out of their pocket so that you can sit at home and dabble in whatever whim you have?" He hadn’t thought about it in that way, but neither did he back down from his attitude. Yes he thinks that all working people should have money taken from them so that he doesn’t have to work! This is the ultimate in arrogance and elitism, in my opinion. He views himself as some sort of National Treasure, it seems.

Once that you decide to take the working person’s wages and spend it on stuff, then you need to pay bureaucrats to decide what to spend it on. These bureaucrats aren’t art, but they end up siphoning off much of the funds intended for art into their own pockets. And the very people whose money it is, the construction worker and the waitress, have no say in how their hard-earned money is spent. But oh, I remember! We’re dealing with elitists here, who think that they know how to spend a waitress’ money better than she does.

I say let the poor women keep the money she earns, and let her decide how to spend it. If she wants to spend in on ‘the arts’ then well and good. But it should be her decision, not some remote faceless elitist bureaucrat who doesn’t give a damn about what the people who actually earned the money want.

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Very true Richard, partic your point about the bureacrats needed to administer these schemes and ensure that the public monies are ‘properly spent’. Truth is, as you say, that they siphon off a career in wages and expenses running these schemes.

Re TDrury above, are you seriously telling us that when you go to listen to a symphony orchestra or opera production in USA, that the majority of the good folks working in those orchestras and companies are all unpaid and doing it for the love of it. I very much doubt it and they probably demand far higher wages than the likes of touring trad groups?????

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Making something tax deductible is the same as subsidising it from taxes except that the tax payers’ representatives don’t get to chose. In an ideal political world the latter would be better.

"Something like Lunasa" not being a non-profit organisation does not mean they are doing any more than paying expenses, the wage bill and maybe interest on loans - the last is what many rely on for their pension savings to keep pace with inflation. (crossing with Kilcash on that)

I agree with gam - use public funds for teaching people to paint and play music. It gives the artists some work as teachers and keep the lights on in education establishments. I think a lot of it does go that way.

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A German physicist in an "Aha!" moment uttered the phrase "alles haengt zusammen!" …Everything is tied together… Same is true for society. What you give to society to make it a better place to live in, you get back in spades over. If that puts me in the dreaded "elitist" category, so be it.

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Mark Harmer: "Was this thing publicised in any way?"

It was a very long time ago Mark, - I don’t remember. But I assume that it must have been publicised somewhere.

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@David50 in common with you and @gam, and probably most on this site, I see the arts as something you "do" primarily, and as a very poor second, something to "consume". For me art is a process not a product, so everyone is a potential contributor rather than just "consuming". Pretty much every policy by any government, alas, is based on the assumption that art is essentially a product that’s consumed.

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"opera is not a for-profit model"
This is so funny I almost confused it with irony, until I saw the comment was from an American. Opera is very much a for profit business as all the multi millionaire conductors, singers and set building companies will testify. As for the thousands also employed, the only of those on a minimum wage are the immigrant cleaners on the graveyard shift. Lets hear it for creative accounting!

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My resistance to funding for "art as a product to consume" is when art is subsidised merely to "recreate" - ie to re-roast a Beethoven symphony or whatever - rather than as a process to create something original. How much of what is called "creativity" is actually "re-creativity"? Most of it, I think. With the best will in the world, recreating something doesn’t move the world on very much. Yet it’s re-creativity that often gets the funding. Creativity is risky and perhaps should deserve more funding (or maybe it’s subversive and therefore shouldn’t have any funding?). In the same vein, it’s probably more valuable to discuss this than to seek a definitive answer (even if there is an answer)!

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"What you give to society to make it a better place to live in, you get back in spades over"
This would be true (possibly) if what we gave to society went to society and not to the bureaucrats and ‘entrepreneurs’ (entre: to go in + prendre: to take) who think they have a right to intervene.
I spent five years going through art college, and the thought of someone paying gazillions of pounds for yet another painting to add to his collection is absurd. It was bad enough when Picasso was selling his autograph to anyone daft enough to buy it; but the likes of Damien Hirst and the YBA are in it solely for the money. At least Picasso could draw.
I think society would be a ‘better place’ (sic) to live if the alpha males killed each other off and left the rest of us to live in peace, playing and dancing and painting and reading, and teaching our children about things that matter.

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Personally I’d call "recreativity" in the arts practice, either that or forgery.

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@steve T Yes -call it what you like, but it’s not "originality".

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There is not much creativity or originality in a lot of amateur participatory activity either. Mine especially. I don’t think that’s the point. It’s about doing instead of just consuming.

I think amateur sport should be supported as well - and I don’t do sporty things.

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All the multimillionaire conductors and singers?! No. There’re a few, but they’re few and far between. And yes, kilcash, orchestral musicians get paid. But for most of them it’s a part-time job at best. I know full-time professional orchestral musicians in the city I live in who make in the neighborhood of $25,000 a year. For full-time work! At least in America, classical music is not a money-maker.

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Interesting analysis Simon.
From my perspective it’s difficult to differentiate the value of art solely on the basis of “creating” or experiencing art versus the “passive observation” or appreciation of art, as your reference to Dewey’s “wholeness” of the artistic experience seems to indicate. Many of us would probably never have begun playing jigs and reels had we not first been deeply moved listening to them. In any case, I suppose that in a cost-benefit analysis, the costs are much easier to ascertain than the benefits.

There is an underlying thread of thought though that any public support for the arts somehow gets siphoned off by the “ne’er-do-wells” of society. As with any worthwhile human endeavor, publicly funded or not, there will always be parasites, some politicians not the least of them, who would seek personal advantage. Due vigilance is appropriate.
I love my dog, “Chaucer”. I derive great benefit from his companionship. If I find a few fleas on him, I will diligently try to eliminate them, BUT I will not stop feeding Chaucer to rid him of parasites!!

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@Simon McKerrell. The first sentence of your blog article has: "There’s a fascinating thread just cropped up on the session dot org website … … about funding arts vs. healthcare, education etc." No it’s not. It’s about funding the arts.

It does not have to be ‘versus’ anything at all (a penny on income tax to fund the arts anyone ?) but is most likely to be versus everything else a state could spend money on. Or did the "etc" include the military, building roads and all the other etceteras ?

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I’m sure we could collect data on how many traditional players have cut their own turf in the day. Milked the odd cow, thatched his roof, collected winter feed and silage. Art is for the people to create, consumption is arbitrary and is a new phenomenon based on a culture of "recreativity" as hammer has already hammered home.

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@Roads to Home: like the dog analogy!

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Hammer’s post voices an unworkable treatise though. Not funding arts that merely "recreate" not originate is at the briefest of glance quite a sound neo-lib perspective but it does not stand the scrutiny. It is akin to saying only fund science which is new or medicine that creates cures, it cannot be done, development does not and cannot come from such process. A culture of investigation, learning and development in the broadest sense is where the new comes from as a freak and unpredictable evolution. If this were not true every investment would be worthy of Warren Buffet, every university would belong in the Ivy League or Russell Group and and the American car industry would be dead on its feet…

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Does ‘old science’ get funded other than as part of education ?

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Well yes it does David as there is no level playing field in the access to science and scientific development we are, as a species constantly reinventing the wheel, so to speak.

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I will rephrase that. Is an application for science funding for research that peer reviewers know ‘has already been done’ likely to be successful ?

Most arts funding that I have benefited from as a participant has involved ticking boxes including a ‘new work’ box and a ‘benefit to participants from the community’ box. In the cases were I have been told anything about the funding the costs of any performances (as opposed to production costs prior to performance) had to be covered by ticket sales. Community participation is good for that - most people have family or a friend or two.

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I wouldn’t really know David as its not my field but I would guess that science has become so specialist and detailed at its frontier that the manifestos (or whatever the scientific equivalent is) of individual projects sound very similar to the layman and let’s face it many of them are the funders too.