Values, not Funding

I find myself falling behind on some personal things, including this blog, as a big project at work is turning my day job into my day-and-night job. But I wanted to react, at least quickly, to an article I read on Salon today.

The article argues that, in this environment, funding for the arts (and I think it would safely apply to educational and scientific areas as well) isn’t about the art. Instead, it’s about values, and those who want to cut funding tend to be better at making the debate about values. As the article says:

“As long as the conversation starts with funding, the arts lose. Yet that’s where the arts often start; if the debate is about money, then we try to prove what a good investment the arts are.  But the problem with economic impact studies is that if someone isn’t in the market to invest – no  matter how good the return is – they won’t. Concurrently, the problem with arguing aesthetic value is that if the aesthetic values aren’t my aesthetic values, they don’t sound compelling to me.”

I’ll admit that I don’t have experience with this type of funding battle. I can’t provide evidence that this thinking is true, but it does make sense to my ears. So here I want to follow the thinking a bit: How exactly can the arts (or science, or education, etc.) appeal to values?

The article, sadly, stops before addressing this.

Is it as simple as: “The arts are an extension of the ingenuity and innovation that will build the economy of the future”? “A museum is where you can go to get away from the cheap commercialism of strip malls”?

I don’t know. Those statements seem like they’re on the right path, but they aren’t quite there yet. They don’t have the urgency of “Everyone’s going broke, so art is un-American.”

So what are the values that art, and science, and education, and museums can appeal to? Give your thoughts in the comments.

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