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Artless Advocacy

by on June 30, 2010

Buy your own damn art.  Take the money you’ve earned, give it to someone who created a piece you enjoy, and hang your acquisition in your den.  Dragging everyone else into the transaction creates a bitter public that would rather purchase a second plasma screen to adorn a nude wall than a first watercolor.

Sadly, the obvious appeal of mutual transactions won’t stop involuntary painting training backers from promoting seizure of your income.  To wit, Colin Dabkowski devoted precious opinion column space in a recent Buffalo News edition to moan about a woman in a Buffalo neighborhood who needs you to fund her dreams:

In a small painting studio flooded with afternoon sunlight and crowded with half-finished canvases, Molly Bethel leaned forward in her chair, rested her elbows on a paint-spackled table and recited her creed.

“I believe,” Bethel said, “I really believe that everybody has a basic human right to have a realistic opportunity to develop whatever talents and interests they may have.”

Fifty years ago, spurred on by that belief, Bethel launched the organization that became Locust Street Neighborhood Art Classes, a community institution that has instilled a love for the arts in thousands of students from across the city’s East Side and beyond.

That’s quite a “basic human right.”  But there’s no reason to rebuff the audacity of hope.  We clearly need a 28th Amendment which would guarantee the freedom to pursue whatever the hell sort of career or hobby you want.  Yes, it would cost society a fortune, but is life really worth living if you don’t get to live without fear of boundaries or rent?

As for now, in a Buffalo tragedy equivalent to a presidential assassination or the Mike Mularkey era, the school may actually soon have to pay its own bills.

After 50 years of serving an underprivileged community, Bethel is used to patching together the school’s modest budget (about $100,000 per year) from a mind-boggling range of sources, including the New York State Council on the Arts, local foundations, companies and individual donors. But this year –because of a low score on an application vetted by the Erie County Cultural Resources Allocation Board – the organization is getting no money from Erie County, which has consistently provided about $10,000 to the school annually.

For once, we should be applauding our oft-wayward county: they actually had the nerve to cut off something subjective like neighborhood art instruction.  Participants could look elsewhere: can’t they just send away for the Art Instruction Schools brochure and try to advance their creative careers by submitting drawings of a turtle and pirate like all other budding drawers?

The answer is no.  Instead, they want your money.  Hand it over unless you hate art, you bigoted homophobe:

Bethel preferred instead to reflect on the importance of public funding for the arts.

“I think it’s to everyone’s benefit and I think I’m a good example of that,” Bethel said. “In my family, nobody was in the arts. I discovered painting through a place” –the Cornelia Yuditzky School of Creative Art in Washington, D. C. –“that had originally started as a WPA project.”

So, we’ve got the feds to blame for this crap.  There’s a message here for anyone who maintains that government subsidies create a culture of dependency that keeps recipients from ever learning how to make themselves valuable: you were utterly correct.  On the other hand, earning would cut into art time.  Heavens forbid that someone actually be required to make money:

Bethel’s legendary determination has lately been frustrated by the difficulty of making her grassroots school work in a funding climate that increasingly trumpets economic impact above activating the imagination, tourism potential above community service.

Activate your imaginations on your own time and dime, pal.  The alternative, namely that people be allowed to purchase what they like with their own funds and support the schools they find worthwhile, is apparently unimaginable.  That won’t keep us merciless conservatives from pointing out that the government’s role is to maintain conditions where citizens can prosper, not attempt to dole out prosperity itself.

Letting citizens figure out how to fund their own free-time fun is a wholly worthwhile approach that implicitly verifies the government’s trust in adults to make their own decisions.  Babysitting the whole county clearly hasn’t worked, so we may as well try the alternative jut for novelty’s sake.

Plus, there would naturally be more cash about if our administrators didn’t get their grubby elected paws upon it first.  The reason the Fruit Belt remains menacing to both outsiders and residents is precisely because various governments cavalierly toss around thousands of dollars taken from earners.

That leaves little for purchases or investment: the neighborhood is broke because so many people are.  Yet our paper’s hacks can’t ascertain why Buffalo is constantly teetering near depression.

Dabkowski’s whining about funding serves as a perfect Buffalo News column, which most Western New Yorkers recognize is as far from a compliment as imaginable.  The word assembler snottily endorses taking money from everyone to fund an obscure, obviously non-essential venture with parochial appeal.  Why would we object?

The wildly improper use of authority to redistribute wealth harms artists far more than making them find buyers or benefactors.  Everyone knows of this state and county’s legendarily unbearable tax rates, which may explain why there are so few citizens able to scrape together enough to sustain right-brained instruction.

But Dabkowski would rather demand than request.  If he really cared, he could encourage both lower taxes and higher private donations.  There should be enough readers willing to kick in a few bucks to preserve the artistic outpost; that’s especially so since it’s allegedly such a piddling amount, at least in the eyes of fat cat News staffers.

Better yet, he could buy patronize the school himself instead of patronizing readers.  That possibility would create the additional benefit of no further columns on the dreadful subject.

As it stands, bitching that the government is obligated to fund painting classes is as foolish as suggesting that newspapers deserve public funding.  Still, the Wegmans ad and daily Sudoku puzzle are far more beneficial to the community than teaching people how to stroke brushes properly, which means The News logically deserves a crutch from the county first.

We’ll start seeing editorials campaigning for such bailouts once circulation slumps a little more.  You understand: the rag’s toilers have Prius payments to make.  It’s not as if they can sustain themselves indefinitely without aid packages.  They’re certainly not about to attract more readers with content that serves as the artistic equivalent of sad clowns rendered on velvet.

From → Erie County

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