Hoppe in particular talks about federal stimulus money being channelled to groups like the Arts Council of Indianapolis instead of going to the artists and how little of that money filters down to the actual artists. I pick up his excellent analysis of the problem about half way through. You can read his entire column here.
... Although the life and vitality of our country's cultural scene is similarly challenged -- a recent study by the National Endowment for the Arts shows double-digit declines in audience for virtually all forms of live arts experience over the past 20 years -- the country is now stuffed with non-profit arts organizations. This arts bureaucracy has created a handy distribution system for public monies. Indeed, the NEA was quick to say it would rely on this system for doling out stimulus dollars.I share Hoppe's outrage that the Arts Council would suggest use the federal stimulus to hire fundraising consultants instead of spending it on the artists.
But this is also a system that favors arts administrators over independent artists, arts organizations over works of art.
According to the Indianapolis Business Journal, the Indiana Arts Commission will receive $323,000 and the Arts Council of Indianapolis will get 250,000 in stimulus funds. After setting aside money to pay themselves (the ACI will keep $50,000), the organizations will combine the rest to create a larger pot. So far, 24 organizations, ranging from the Friends of the Frankfort Library to the Eiteljorg Museum, have been identified to receive grants of between $7,500 and $25,000.
These organizations need the money. And the dedication and hard work of the people who will be employed is not in question.
But there is no getting 'round the sense that, rather than a stimulus, this federal money is the merest form of life support for many organizations -- and temporary at that. This money will keep doors open for another six months or so. Then what? The IAC's lame suggestion that it might use stimulus money to hire not artists, but consultants to advise organizations on fund raising strategies only adds insult to injury.
By being more about propping up a self-serving bureaucratic infrastructure than encouraging new forms, this federal support for the arts oddly resembles the bailouts that have been directed to financial giants deemed "too big to fail." Unfortunately, the size and scope of the arts effort is too small on both counts to succeed.
Indianapolis is even worse than the feds when it comes to trusting tax money to private bureaucratic organizations, like the Arts Council, to distribute. It is something that hopefully our Indianapolis City-County Council will be more cautious of in the future.