Government funding of the arts threatens the integrity of the arts.
When it comes to government subsides, such questions arise: do the arts actually need government funding? Does the national endowment for the arts really threaten the integrity of the arts? The debate on the merits of government funding of the arts is a hot issue. As far as I concerned, Government funding is hazardous to artistic health and integrity.
Before discussion, we must define the integrity of the arts. I think it has two-fold meanings: First, it refers to the diversity of the arts. Second, it means that artists should have the independence and free creativity.
Government support for the arts is inherently problematic. It breeds passivity, undermines the independent creative spirit. It makes artists shift the focus from creativity towards pleasing funding bodies. The importance of individual passion and creativity are undercut by the funding regime. And much more! It raises the question of official art, whether that art be the standard of the public, government officials, or a largely self-chosen art establishment. In the Netherlands, for example, the government guaranteed a market for the works of professional artists. If no one else would buy their work, the government paid them for it. This was commonly referred to as the "Dutch treat". They had a huge warehouse full of art that wouldn't sell. This assured the survival of artists, but it also assured the creation of a lot of bad art.
Also, The process of official encouragement of some kinds of art and official discouragement of others will have begun to influence artistic directions. It must cause the imbalance of the development of the arts. For example, vast investment in the Beijing opera would hurt other local operas. As a result, some kinds of small operas might become extinct.
Furthermore, limited resources mean decisions have to be made to fund or not to fund. The criteria ultimately include an aesthetic judgment that necessarily select the relative worth of one artistic entity (be it an organization, project or individual) among all participating in competition for the same dollars. Questions arise: What resources should be committed to supporting art that is not popular? Does art deserve to be supported if there are not sufficient patronage for it to survive on its own merits?
What's more, funding agencies take efforts to assure a diverse and objective mix of panelists. But no panel is qualified to evaluate every application. If a representative of some art form have no strong support, there must be an imbalance in arts diversity.What shall we do to ensure the diversity of the arts? There is no easy answer to this.The only obvious solution is to have sufficient public funding available to ensure the survival of all the arts in a community so that the hard decisions don't have to be made. Private patronage on the whole is a far better protection for diversity and independence than any governmental program can be. Without government direction and intervention, the arts can avoid being byproducts of government and freely create what artists want to express. Private patronage has its random city; therefore any art form has equal chance to be funded. Meanwhile, through free competition excellent artists have the freest space to display their creativity.
In sum, despite opposing views, I believe that the arts are an important area in our society, which should be given freedom. Without the help of the government, we could be doing some useful things to our nation's creative future.
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