Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Nickle & Diming the Arts

While Arts Funding has been slashed in Pennsylvania and across the country – it's always an easy target – this response to similar cuts in the United Kingdom is something perhaps American artists and arts groups should follow. Rather than go the moral and cultural and social high ground about the importance of Art which is then going to be cut anyway, why not present the Arts as an economic component of our community to show the disparities between the amount of government money supporting the Arts compared to the amount of government money supporting Business & Industry?

Perhaps someone with knowledge of our own local facts and figures could come up with the Pennsylvanian Equivalent of these British observations:

Arts Subsidies in Great Britain (that is, government moneys budgeted for the Arts) amount to 0.07% of the total budget's expenditures which in turn amounts to about 17 pence (roughly $0.26) per person per week.

This is basically “less than half the cost of a pint of milk” per person, depending on the market value of milk in this country or the rate of exchange between American and British currencies on any given day.

One of the big financial issues in the UK has been their equivalent of the Bank Bail-Out.

According to Mervyn King, the Bank of England governor, the size of the bank bailout is 'breathtaking' at close to £1 trillion. Not many of us even realise how big a trillion is. A million seconds takes 11.5 days; a trillion takes 31,709 years.”

If each person in Great Britain were to shoulder up this debt with a “one-off payment,” it would cost them “a mere £16,666.66.” Blogger Daniel Bye estimates that, at the rate of a ½ pint of milk per week, should keep a British subject in milk through the year 4780.

Other similes could be made in measurable terms: say, in height with “a small book compared to three Everests,” or in time with “how long it takes to read this paragraph compared to the time it takes to run the Tour de France (including sleep).” The popular media love making sports analogies so in this instance, we could kill two birds with one stone.

Since the British Cultural Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, thinks the Arts should look more to philanthropy for their support, wouldn't it be great if he and the other 21 millionaires in the British cabinet would ante up “the Arts Council's £58m grants budget, used to fund work by new and emerging artists”?

But then there is also the argument that perhaps the Arts can actually be economically feasible when you consider that, as the Department of Culture, Media & Sport (as it's known in Britain) responded to one blogger's question, in “2008, Arts Council England spent £100m on theatre [and] the VAT [Value Added Tax] receipts from London theatre alone were worth £75m.” How much additional tax revenue was generated by theatres outside London?

And of course, considering the corporate defense for Wall Street Bonuses or the recent get-away parachute of about $18 million handed to Tony Hayward of BP, how do these compare with the typical annual income of a free-lance musician or actor in this country?

It is, of course, easy to say “there is no more money” or that “we're trying to find money for education and health care” or that "I don't like classical music therefore it is not important," but does the cutting of a comparatively small amount that severely wounds the Arts in our communities make a viable argument?

Even conservative politicians would have difficulty buying a strategy that cuts something that at least makes money.

No comments:

Post a Comment