- The Washington Times
Friday, March 17, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

So President Donald Trump wants to abolish the National Endowment for the Arts — and now the artsy world is in a panic, as if the White House proposal means the end of creativity everywhere.

Listen up, left: People painted before the NEA, you know.


And sculpted. And played music. And danced and performed and read books and drew pictures and all that other stuff the endowment has supported — via tax dollars — since 1965. But let’s be real; when we say “supported,” what we really mean is subsidized. And though the NEA was supposed to serve as a means of fostering interest in arts in needy communities, and fostering charitable donations, what it really turned into was a welfare pool for elitist artists — elitist artists like photographer Andres Serrano, who won thousands of tax dollars to showcase Jesus with a crucifix submerged in a glass of urine.

Last year, the NEA received $148 million for questionable uses — and truly, all of them are questionable because, at root, the thing is: Government doesn’t belong in the business of funding art in the first place.

Julie Andrews, beloved actress as she is, issued forth some screaming criticisms of Trump that pretty much summarize how the left takes funding cuts to the Twilight Zone degree. She said, in part: “[N]ow, with the shifting priorities of our new presidential administration, artists and art organizations are at serious risk of losing the support they need to [do] their invaluable work. This is mind-boggling to us, considering how much the arts benefit our lives and world.”

The Washington Post, another good voice for the left, opened a critical budget story in similar red-flag fashion.

“A community orchestra performance, a new work from an emerging playwright, art therapy for a returning veteran, local library classes in Braille, free standardized-test preparation and Bert and Ernie,” the paper wrote. “Thousands of such programs could be gutted under President Trump’s proposed budget.”

Come on, now. Really? Cutting the NEA kills Bert and Ernie?

Here’s the thing liberals want believed: that government and only government fosters creativity.

That without the NEA and the millions of dollars it gets to supposedly foster charitable giving, the entire arts world would crumble — the entire pool of present and would-be artists will be forced to give up their creative dreams and, gasp, become mechanics or something.

It’s the same argument the left uses to press the need for taxpayer funding for everything.

The argument is not only silly. It’s disproven.

Once again, the NEA was created in 1965. Art has been around long before the government ever got in the funding game.

But when government did jump into the picture, it set the stage for a system where bureaucrats — and some of the most culturally elitists ones, at that — were given the ability to pick the winners and losers of the art world. And those chosen for the funding prizes were often offensive to some in the taxpaying chain. Remember the congressional uproar over NEA funding of movies that crossed into pornographic territory? As the Heritage Foundation noted, “Sex Fish” was a film that showed a “furious montage of oral sex, public rest-room cruising and … tropical fish”; “Coming Home” portrayed scenes of “sexy fun of trying to fit a lesbian couple in a bathtub”; and “Ten Cents a Dance” showed “two women awkwardly discuss[ing] their mutual attraction” and “anonymous bathroom sex between two men.”

Other great artistic endeavors funded by the NEA?

An exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum of an American flag in the toilet, an American flag made of human skin and an American flag draped on the floor — so visitors could step on it.

Monet, it ain’t.

And that’s the problem with government in arts: What constitutes art, and especially, what constitutes good art, has always been a matter of personal taste. Tossing a flag on the floor for passersby to wipe their feet is simply political expression, masked as art.

Yet this is what NEA funds.

Trump is quite right — quite bold, in fact — in recommending Congress abolish the agency. Getting the NEA out of the picture won’t leave art out in the cold, or artists starving and ceding their creative calling for menial labor. It won’t put Bert and Ernie on the unemployment line. Rather, it will simply open the door for the private and nonprofit markets to step in and offer charitable donations to those deemed worthy and needy — and in a free society, that’s how it’s supposed to be done, anyway.


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