Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Proposed Government Economic Rescue Plan Should Include the Arts

Of course, as an artist I’m going to say that money pumped into the economy must be spent on the Arts as well. Never the less, I firmly believe the title of this entry to be correct. The Arts are also necessary to education as they train youngsters not only to be independent and creative, but they present problem solving skills so necessary to everyday life and to solving the problems we have inherited in our Twenty-first Century democracy. Franklin Delano Roosevelt helped artists, composers, and musicians with Federal One in the New Deal, which was included with the WPA (Works Progress Administration) all of which was nibbled away as quickly as possible by a conservative court system and a coalition of conservatives in the House and Senate. By the time of the Second World War most of the programs were gone with the exception of Social Security, the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation), Fanny Mae, and one or two others. However, FDR’s Federal One is responsible for sponsoring murals throughout the country including work by the greatest mural artist of the 20th Century, Diego Rivera. As well, The Section of Painting and Sculpture (among others) was controlled by the Treasury Department, later became the Section of Fine Arts and continued until dismantled by the coalition of conservatives in 1942. In relatively recent history we remember the evisceration of the National Endowment for the Arts by conservatives back in 1989-90. It seems the conservative forces in our culture are constant in their vigilance of government programs to benefit the arts.

I am also reading today of Republican criticism, led by John Boehner, of the “no tax” rescue package being created as promised in the recent election by Barack Obama. I would caution Boehner and the other conservatives that the poor who would benefit most from “no tax” are most likely to spend money obtained immediately because they need the basics; that is shelter, clothing, and food. Boehner and other Republicans also criticize the public works projects being considered because as they say these will take too long to implement and that the impact on the economy will be so spread out over time as to be diluted of any immediate bearing. Well, I have news for these conservative folks, the descendents of the conservatives that dismantled so much of the regulation, and / or infiltrated what was left of the regulation put in place by Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the First Great Depression. First, let me remind Congressman Boehner that Obama won the election by a huge majority. Second, the current economy didn’t fall apart in one year, it was destroyed by greed and conservative profligacy over nearly two decades, and it is going to take more than one year to put it back together again!

And, while we are at it, why not provide a few hundred billion in aid for green energy start-up businesses, such as wind, and solar energy, clean coal (maybe), electric and/or water hybrid automobiles, as well as public transportation such as railroads (reads high speed and new commuter lines), all of which are necessary to creating a more green and efficient, less oil dependent economy. Actually, I believe we need all of this more than we need additional aid for banks. Why not cut a great deal of the aid to banks and dump it into green start-up business and include some for the Arts as well. After all, FDR’s programs for the arts in The New Deal did provide seed money, as it turned out, for some of the greatest artists of the Twentieth Century, including Thomas Hart Benton, Paul Cadmus, Stuart Davis, Willem de Kooning, Arshile Gorky, Philip Guston, Marsden Hartley, Lee Krasner, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Ben Shahn, Mark Tobey, to mention but a few.*2 The Arts not only report on what is important in our culture, but the Arts often lead and gather focus for that which is important to create constructive change in our culture. It is also necessary to mention the usual philosophical and aesthetic ploy that the Arts provide grace and beauty.

My conclusion, we need money for the poor, less money for Banks, more green public works projects, money for green start-up businesses, as well as aid projects for the arts in order to gradually lift us out of this, the Second Great Depression.


∆“… 1934, The Fleet’s In! was a harsher look at sailors ashore, and caused a furor, followed and exploited by the press.
The painting was included in a PWAP exhibition at the Whitney Museum in New York, which specialized in American art, and then traveled to the Corcoran Gallery in Washington. Glanced at without comment in Manhattan, in Washington The Fleet’s In provoked the anger of Admiral Hugh Rodman…” *

The ensuing Brouhaha was based on the man in the painting’s left hand quadrant. He wears a red tie (a known covert signal gay men used to alert one another), but not the drunken sailors in pursuit of prostitutes in the right half of the painting. As such the painting is a perfect example of New Deal Art that helped keep known artists afloat during the First Great Depression, as well as the kinds of controversies government funded art can and do inspire. I feel it necessary to add that without the controversy inspired by Admiral Rodman, the extremely talented Paul Cadmus might never have risen to such prominence as an American artist. Thus the new deal had unforeseen positive consequences.

{This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States Federal Government under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, and Section 105 of the US Code. See Copyright.
Note: This only applies to works of the Federal Government and not to the work of any individual U.S. state, territory, commonwealth, county, municipality, or any other subdivision. This template also does not apply to postage stamp designs published by the United States Postal Service since 1978. (See 206.02(b) of Compendium II: Copyright Office Practices).}

*2 I'm not linking all these artists. If a cyber-void reader should be interested, it is easy enough to "Google" each.


*Leddick, David, Intimate Companions: a Triography of George Platt Lynes, Paul Cadmus, and Lincoln Kirstein, and Their Circle . Macmillan, Stonewall Inn Editions (2001) p. 47.

Roosevelt University, Center for New Deal Studies, “Chicago and New Deal Art,” © Roosevelt University, 2006. Viewed 9:20 EST, Tuesday, January 27, 2009.

Delahunt, Michael, “New Deal Art,” in ArtLex: Art Dictionary, © 1996-2009, Michael Delahunt, viewed 9:27 A.M., EST, January 27, 2009.

National Archives and Records Administration, “A New Deal for the Arts,” “This online exhibit is adapted from A New Deal for the Arts, an exhibit that was on display from March 28, 1997 through January 11, 1998, in the Rotunda of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.” Viewed 9:20 A.M. EST, Wednesday, January 28, 2009.

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