Stars Come Out

Money Grab

Photo by Steve Wampler — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

How do you sell enlightenment?

As posted in KadmusArts’ daily culture news, this week, if you want light you need stars. Looking for the meaning of life? Go with pop culture.

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times is using George Clooney to enlighten the world about the darkness of Darfur: “He’s using me to learn more about Darfur, and I’m using him to ease you into a column about genocide.”

Greg Sandow of the Wall Street Journal notes the impact of Robert Redford on the US Congress’ decision to increase national arts funding as part of the stimulus bill. (Get ready to celebrate: $50 million increase as part of the $800 billion deal/dole.)

Sandow, whose critical writing has improved the creation of art, points to a more significant point about selling culture. He asks, why must we force ourselves to see the arts as an economic issue?

In his most recent opinion piece for the Journal, Sandow notes that the arguments for increasing funding to the National Endowment for the Arts as part of the stimulus package were made on economic grounds. Arts create jobs. Arts support the economy. Arts help neighborhood vendors.

Fair enough. However, as Sandow notes, the same can be said for wall street financial companies and car manufacturers. In fact, both of those industries, which are very much part of the stimulus package, create more jobs and affect local economies to a much greater degree than the not-for-profit arts organizations supported by the NEA.

In other words, why compete on their own turf? Why try to compare who makes more money?

What about the need for the arts? Well, Sandow writes that he surely doesn’t want to be the one who demands arts funding at the expense of health funding and other direct life or death services.

Sandow inspires us to make better arguments for the arts. Stop selling short, and start investing long. The argument has to be about what the arts can mean to our lives, to our individual identity and to our place in the world.

If the argument is about money, you might as well as follow the stars. Pop culture is doing just fine, thank you very much.

- Bill Reichblum

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