If Congress adopts Trump’s budget proposals, it will cut funding to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). That would be horrible for artists, right? Not all artists think so.
While working on a critique of government art funding, I contacted novelist, painter, and gallery owner Quent Cordair for his thoughts. I’ve done business with Cordair; I own prints from his shop of Liberty and Justice by Bryan Larsen.
Cordair’s brief remarks about the potential defunding of the NEA are so compelling that I decided to feature them here in a stand-alone article (I’ll publish my piece later). Here’s what he had to say:
For any artist with a genuine sense of self-esteem and independence, the prospect of ending tax-funded support of the arts can only be viewed as a very good development.
Artists, properly, are neither slaves nor thieves, victims nor beggars. In our chosen profession, we’re no better or worse, no more fragile or more needy, than those who have chosen other professions or productive endeavors. We create and we build, we market and we sell—just like every other creator and producer, engaging and exchanging with our buyers like every other business that provides a product or service. We give value for value.
With hard work, dedication, and perseverance, we earn what is freely exchanged by those who value what we create. Or at least that’s the moral approach, in a system in which we, as artists, can take genuine pride in what we create and what we earn.
In addition to being taxed to support government-funded artists, having to compete with those artists, on top of all the other challenges we face, makes the independent artist’s life and work harder too.
Further, an art market that targets and sells itself for government favor reduces and dilutes true, cutting-edge creativity as artists attempt to mold their offerings to what they believe the government will support. Everyone loses under such a regime—the artists and the public alike.
Additionally, government involvement in funding the arts inevitably runs into freedom of expression issues and limitations. The theme and message of the art the government supports must stay in line with the government’s philosophy and politics. What the government supports, it must and it will control.
Any true fan and supporter of the arts should demand that the government get out of the arts, completely—for the sake of the arts. And especially for the artists.
Kudos to Cordair for expressing these principles so well. Now go check out his art gallery and consider consensually supporting a great artist—for you own sake.
April 3 Update: See also “Why the Federal Government Should Not Fund Art.”
Image: Quent Cordair Fine Art