Conservatives usually complain about government funding of the arts because they see taxpayer money going for art they consider objectionable. That’s not really the point, argues dramatist David Marcus. The real problem with government funding is that it hurts the arts.
From David Marcus, Taking Back the Arts:
What conservatives should be saying is that the NEA and the tax exempt status of many arts organizations are hurting the very art forms they purport to support. They are in fact making American art less relevant to American’s lives.
I have been a theater actor and producer in New York for over a decade. In that time I have seen many talented kids coming out of school who want to form theater companies . Their first concern is not finding an audience, its finding a grant, or finding wealthy donors. In fact this is what they are taught to do at universities all across the country. The basic assumption is that theater cannot survive in the marketplace. That without federal, state and city dollars it will cease to exist. The fact that theater is about as old as human civilization and has existed under every governmental system known to man (including many which actively tried to suppress it) doesn’t seem to enter into this analysis. It is simply accepted that government support of the arts creates better, and better attended art. In fact, the perverse market incentives enshrined by federal tax expenditures through deductions for arts giving and direct government support have been accompanied by a decrease in attendance and a crisis in theater. There are three compelling reasons why we need to reexamine the role of government in the arts, and specifically in theater. First and most importantly it is failing. Less and less people go to theater even though the federal dollars keep rolling in. Second, these government dollars are not expanding the base of arts attendees, but rather subsidizing the entertainment of wealthy, white people. Thirdly, government dollars are not content neutral, a cultural ground game is being executed by the progressive Non Profit community to ensure that culture remains the sole preserve of leftist ideology.