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November 4, 2008

The President and the Arts

Well, as I sit here in a state of archetypal leftie terror and paranoia, awaiting the election returns, my thoughts naturally turn to presidential arts policies. Obama has one; McCain has none. Several of the planks in Obama's arts platform (McCain has no such platform, either) are good, especially increased support for the NEA amd cultural diplomacy. Others are almost as good: the perhaps obligatory bow to arts education, loosening restrictions on foreign talent coming here, health care and "tax fairness" for artists. Even the New-Deal-nostalgic "artists corps."

Cynicism rears its head: most presidents, including Kennedy and Clinton, turn over arts policy, which usually means ceremonial appearances at White House galas and Kennedy Center awards shows, to the First Lady. And where the money will come for all Obama's initiatives, who knows, if we're truly on the edge of a steep recession. But a lot of this is relatively low cost or inspirational.

Inspiration counts, just like words count (as in Obama's -- and Deval Patrick's -- proper rebuff to Republican complaints that he was all verbal style and no substance). But what would really make for a creative arts renaissance in this country (and this world) would be an upsurge of artistic innovation from below, from artists themselves. If Obama could set a tone for that (McCain surely could and would not, unless it were to encourage revolutionary reaction), THEN we'd maybe have a real artistic revival, also known as the Return of the Sixties.

And since Obama's entire political philosophy involves inspiring revival -- in politics, in the economy, in energy policy -- from the ground up, not the top trickling down, his election would provide the better stimulus for an American arts renaissance. Whether this would in turn trigger a renaissance in American arts journalism, we would have to wait and see...  

November 4, 2008 1:45 PM | | Comments (0)

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