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Making Government Smaller - Let's Revisit the National Endowments for the Arts


My reader might wonder why there is an Image of the book cover for Dharma Art posted on this political blog. Keep reading and you shall see. because now- as promised I am going to continue telling the story about my 2009 face to face meeting with the overlords of Maine's economy at their own pow wow, which they call "The Juice Conference" Somewhere I have records of everything but I am relying on my memory to tell this story as a simple time saving device.

2009 was the year of the Obama stimulus and at that point my primary acquaintance with Maine's government programs was through The Maine Art's Commission, from whom I received their email updates  I never removed my self from that email list but somewhere along the line I stopped receiving emails from MAC.- and so I just now signed up again.

Throughout 2009, the MAC headlines announced available stimulus grants but when one opened the link the grants were available only to non-profit organizations. In retrospect, from what we as a nation know in 2014, the fact that the IRS approval of non-profit organization might be politically implemented, adds extended implications to what I was aware of in 2009. Then I was simply aware that the Maine Arts Commission exists in its expanded form due to the passing of The National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965 (P.L. 89-209).In the beginning of the NFA, grants were issued to individuals but in 1989 there was an uproar over a show of Andres Serrano's and Robert Maplethorps work, funded by the NFA, and there after grants were given to organizations only. Strangely, this significant history is omitted from the NEA's timeline. However, the entire story, including the congressional side of it is told on a website called Political Research Associates- or
The current uproar over National Endowment for the Arts funding of controversial artists began in 1989, when the Rev. Donald Wildmon of the conservative American Family Association of Tupelo, Missouri, held a press conference to denounce NEA funding of "anti-Christian bigotry," referring to the exhibition of Andres Serrano's work, which included a photograph, Piss Christ, of a crucifix submerged in the artist's urine......
on Oct. 7, 1989 in the Senate. During the Senate debate over the bill, Warren Rudman (R-NH) called for a moderation of anti-NEA rhetoric, while Steve Symms (R-Idaho) proposed the abolition of the NEA. Jesse Helms stated, "The American people ...are disgusted with the idea of giving the taxpayers' money to artists who promote homosexuality insidiously and deliberately, who desecrate crucifixes by immersing them in urine, and others who will engage in whatever perversion it takes to win acclaim as an artist on the 'offending edge' and therefore entitled to taxpayer funding.

My how times have changed!

Robert Brustein--"It was never the function of the Endowment to subsidize popular taste, because the cultural demands of the democratic majority were thought to be adequately represented by the market--by Broadway shows, best-selling books, platinum records, Hollywood movies, by mass art and popular culture. No, the Endowment was designed as a counter-market strategy, in the hope that by subsidizing cultural offerings at affordable prices the works of serious art could become available to those normally excluded by income or education.

There is much in the above statement that reflects bias and confusion that has been directed at Andersen Studio over the years.  "It was never the function of the Endowment to subsidize popular taste...No, the Endowment was designed as a counter-market strategy, in the hope that by subsidizing cultural offerings at affordable prices the works of serious art could become available to those normally excluded by income or education."

So "serious art is equated with "un-affordable art" versus- the philosophy on which Andersen Studio was established; " to make hand made products affordable to the middle classes"- judgments from elitist institutions aside, over the years we have received hundreds of letters of appreciation from the public- letters which identify our work as "art". I've always been fine with that. When my parents came to Maine, it was shortly after being awarded the Young Designers Award from Living magazine, but once they set up their own slip casting business, they no longer had time to pursue the awards circuit. Establishing a ceramic slip casting enterprise was all time consuming.

As for the NFA being a "counter-market strategy"- that just means that it was replaced with a redistribution of wealth strategy serving an elitist re-education of the common folk on what is art.

I spent the eighties in New York City when Soho was a global art world boom town. I always felt like an anomaly, observing from without. I didn't feel comfortable with the fundamental basis of that world in which "important art" was inseparable from "blue chip art", and there was a dark under current in the knowledge that much of the gold dust fueling the whole scene was coming from ill-begotten wealth. This was the times of Jeff Koons, art rock star, who, in 1991, launched a show in one of the top NYC galleries of larger than life sized uninhibited photo's of himself and his porn start wife- not financed by NFA, but by the high end art marketplace- this taking place a generation since the NFA set out to educate the masses on the nature of "serious art" - the same NFA that funded the controversial Robert Maplethorp show, and so the private market takes the cue from publicly subsidized art and we move from serious homosexual  art to serious porn art- It's all so really really serious! And it's up to the elite boards of overlords in art and finance to educate the lowly commoners about how very important such art is!

I didn't know then that my philosophy of art was the same as that of Dharma Art. I opened the first few pages of  Chogyam Trumpa's book, which I am now reading chapter by chapter to my Dad,to find words spoken in a spirited and personal style and talking about the everyday life and work processes of the Tibetan farmland community in which Chogyam Trumpa was raised. I will discuss this in more detail on my other blog, Andersen Studio Evolution Diaries. I found myself identifying with everything the author says and the way in which he says it. You might say his philosophy is the diametrical opposite of that expressed by Robert Brustein , above.

When Ronald Reagan came into office in 1980, he attempted to abolish the National Endowment for the Arts, but, lacking sufficient support in Congress, was unable to abolish or defund the agency
During the Robert Maplethorp -Serrano controversy- there was also congressional discussion about abolishing the NFA- but it did not happen then and by 2009, there were whispers that the NFA had been employed in promoting the agenda of President Barack Obama, giving more rise to the description of the NFA as a taxpayer funded political organization;

 "The United We Serve team, in collaboration with the White House Office of Public Engagement and the National Endowment for the Arts is hosting a conference call."Quote from an email conversation reported by Glenn Beck

I will continue my discussion and story line in the next post-leaving you for now with this choice promo for the upcoming 2014 Juice Conference:

The theme of the conference is "Imagining Trust." Why “Imagining Trust?” Recent research studies have indicated that success in small business and the arts is less about unique and motivated individuals but more about the social networks and trust that exists within the communities in which they operate. As a follow-up to the Juice 3.0 Conference, which delved into “Celebrating Risk”, Juice 4.0 will have participants “Imagining Trust “and exploring the idea that community is key to creating an atmosphere where risk-taking can be undertaken..
I can put it more simply: Why do we have to imagine trust? because it doesn't exist in our experiential world- so don't miss the Juice Conference where in Maine's overlords of Maine's centrally managed economy will attempt to educate the public into trusting them!,, into taking on investor risk so the investor can just focus on profits!

Part Two


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