An Artist Against the NEA, Part 2: Subsidizing the Rich and the Art of Breaking Windows

Rene Magritte, an artist who understood the correct use of fallacies


The hive mind of Washington, DC is all abuzz these days. A big part of their collective angst hovers around the idea that this time the Federal government is expected to produce an actual budget. It will the first one in years. Needless to say, everyone in positions of authority  wants to make sure an allotment of sweet taxpayer honey keeps flowing their way.

Whenever the topic turns to reining in out of control spending, the National Endowment for the Arts comes up. It seems like a reasonable cut to consider, since there are much more urgent situations which need funding. But to culture industry careerists, that’s just crazy talk.

Of course all the organizations who are currently latched onto that particular public teat feel entitled to remain there. Just ask them, they’ll tell you.Or just read some of the hundreds of op-eds that have popped up around the country as a lobbying effort. Most advance the notion that without the bureaucratic benevolence of Uncle Sugar, redistributor of wealth, there would not be a single spark of creativity left in America.

Most of the articles follow the same template. They plead that its a given that arts organizations are poverty stricken, that arts spending boosts the economy, that support is needed while artists produce quality culture enriching works. The NEA is desperately needed for these reasons.

What is the reality? Postmodern art worker types like to pretend there is no such thing as reality, that the world operates based on just what those in power decree. Cultural elitists behave as if their virtue signalling and theorizing acts as a shield against universal truths such as cause and effect. Accountability is something to be deconstructed and explained away. However, there are many questions to ask about the default assumptions of their assertions.

For a different perspective about need, this headline pretty much sums it up: Feds Use Arts Funding to Subsidize Billion-Dollar Nonprofits. The article shares the findings of watchdog group, and summarizes their findings about the NEA’s umbrella group: “The National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities issued $20.5 million in grants to ‘asset-rich’ nonprofit groups with assets of $1 billion or more in 2016 alone.”

For instance, Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute has received millions of dollars in grants for their swanky ski town film festival. And what is their estimated annual revenue from the event? $37 million.

Robert Redford: Like a Rhinestone Rent-Seeker


New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is probably the top example. Since 2009 they have been awarded $1.22 million in grants and contracts from the NFA-H. And what are the Metropolitian’s assets estimated to be? Four billion dollars. That is billion with a B. There are other examples of the payola changing hands in the full article.

The Met: 4 Billion is not enough, they need handouts


Why is taxpayer money being funneled to organizations that could easily be self-sustaining? Observation suggests it’s all part of the perks of the New Aristocracy of the Well Connected. It’s one of the ways the privileged class flatter each other, generously  passing out other people’s money. Would these powerhouse entities cease functioning without receiving kickbacks from the public treasury?

Of course not all arts organizations are stuffed with money like those insider superstars. What about the more local community efforts? How will artists be able to exist without qualifying for subsidies?

The pitfalls of those gambits are covered well in an insightful article from PJ Media’s John Ellis: The National Endowment for the Arts is Bad for Artists and Should be Defunded. He states:

“…It’s way past time to defund and shutter the National Endowment for the Arts.

“From the organization’s website, ‘The National Endowment for the Arts is an independent federal agency that funds, promotes, and strengthens the creative capacity of our communities by providing all Americans with diverse opportunities for arts participation.’

“That mission statement prompts a few questions. (Well, the first one isn’t so much a question as an eye-rolling musing.): 1. Yeah, it’s easy to fund things with other people’s money, NEA. 2. How does creating a false market for art promote and strengthen creative capacity? 3. All Americans? Really, NEA? Are you sure that ‘all Americans’ have the requisite skills to participate in the arts?”

Ellis addresses the fallacies at the heart of the economic stimulation and quality results outcome arguments by referring to observations about human nature, and a well known flaw in logic.

“The first question/eye-rolling musing is countered by artists and those who hold the arts community’s purse strings that arts organizations provide an economic engine to communities (by the way, I could write a whole other article about the absurd, silly, politics that I saw first hand while I worked directly for a specific arts funding organization—and by ‘funding,’ of course, I mean that they took taxpayers dollars and with a kindergartener level of pettiness disbursed that stolen taxed money amongst their friends). The NEA and their supporters will trot out research about how many dollars are added to local economies due to things like theatres, symphonies, and museums. Of course, as almost every person with at least half a semester of Economics under their belt is screaming, the NEA’s argument embraces the broken window fallacy.

“The economic stimulus felt and supposedly generated by the arts community comes at the expense of other markets. Chances are, the tax dollars given to arts organizations would have been more effectively used elsewhere to benefit local economies. All that money pumped into the local economy by arts organizations would have been pumped into the economy anyway. The taxpayers would have decided which markets to support. And those markets would’ve naturally grown, strengthened, and added jobs and wealth to the economy. The National Endowment for the Arts model artificially props up mostly unwanted markets by using tax dollars that get funneled through inefficient and wasteful bureaucracies.

“Segueing into the second question, artificially propping up an unwanted market does not benefit the arts. It does benefit the people who work in the NEA office and the many local organizations that help funnel taxpayers’ money to arts organizations, though. What it does to the arts is create a marketplace that supports bad art. If you don’t believe me, buy tickets to your local community theatre’s production of Seussical the Musical. Besides the money you spent on the ticket, your tax dollars helped pay for that crap. In other words, even if you don’t buy a ticket, your hard-earned money is still being used to stoke the egos and fill the free time of wanna-be actors and directors.”

You oughta be thankful, a whole heaping lot. For the people and places you’re lucky you’re not.

Ellis raises very valid concerns about what exactly is coming out as the result of these appropriated funds.

Now personally, I’m an old punk rocker. Punk’s creeds of individuality, distrust of authority, and sincere belief in the transformative power of participating in your own culture are ideas as American as baseball.  I learned early to value passionate intensity in art, which can lead to less than polished accomplishments. I’m inspired by all sorts of creative expression by unconventionally talented individuals. My paintings tend to be dark and strange.

Richard Bledsoe “The Collective” acrylic on canvas 30″ x 30″


My music collection is filled with albums that could strike terror into lots of people.

Face up to the Butthole Surfers


In my time I’ve attended DIY art and music happenings in places ranging from bowling alleys to Chinese restaurants, from student living rooms to trailers in isolated desert communities. I’ve organized many events myself, looking to give artists a chance to share their creativity. A key trait linking all of these shows is the Y in DIY: do it yourself. Make it happen, with none of the strings that come attached from being reduced to a supplicant for crumbs from the tables of the powerful. If the effort is genuine, it will find its audience.

The hey-kids-lets-put-on-a-show exuberance that drives “amateur” dedication to the arts is at the core of the art movement Remodernism, This grassroots renewal of our culture is rising to destroy the elitist mind games of Postmodernism.The NEA is doing nothing but sustaining the current corrupted model, where to be deemed worthy you must conform to the establishment’s agenda.

Artists with integrity recognize that far from promoting the arts, a compromised, insular organization like the NEA is actually shackling free expression to their ideological biases. The true future of the arts is going to be determined by those who do not submit their productions for official approval. Art is about so much more than acting as a cog in the crony combine.

15 thoughts on “An Artist Against the NEA, Part 2: Subsidizing the Rich and the Art of Breaking Windows

  1. What a strange world. I remember the Surfers. I was one of the earliest bartenders at the “Hole in the Wall” in Austin, Tx back in the 70’s. They came later.

  2. if you swallow everything the NEA and local arts council boosters say, you’d think there would be no art whatsoever unless governments subsidized artists.

  3. Oh yeah, but this is an art and corruption in the structural art world blog and I need to talk about that. Stories some other time.
    Of all the money the NEA and related official groups take in for the benefit of the arts, I wonder what percentage of that money actually goes to “art”?

  4. “If you wish a safe deposit, give it to Chase Manhattan”. And realize, if banks goes rupt, the bankers most often still benefit.
    I assume the donations of NEA to the MET fall into this way of thinking.
    Must now proceed to reas about the Modigliano Exhibition

    And then start writing a stunning essay about my most recent discovery: almost half of artworks in musea are not fake, but failures.

  5. As a newcomer to the organized “art world” there are a lot of things I wonder about. When did this great edifice of “official” opinion, teaching,denoting of what is art first appear? I know there were critics (for instance Ruskin etc) and artists themselves talked among themselves, but the organized part, what’s it’s beginnings?

  6. Thank you for your Remodern website, for slamming the NEA and most especially for your condemnations of the elitists’ hypocrisies that have destroyed and strangled the phoney 20th century artworld. I graduated art school in 1975 and attempted to get my MFA thereafter. I dropped out of the program in disgust. I couldn’t take one more class critique hour where we were forced to give “enlightened” and “non-critical” commentary on garbage pieces (literally) presented by nothing more than talent-less, lazy, hung-over art students who were usually too wasted to put any studio time in. A typical scenerio: they would breathlessly arrive 5 minutes late for critique hour with, for example, a canvas glued to a dangling pair of jeans (which the student, hysterical with laughter after she received an A for the piece, bragged later were grabbed off her floor and stuck onto the canvas as she ran down the hall to the studio) or, my favorite, a garbage pail from their dorm room filled with beer cans entitled “Pre-Urinal.” We then would all have to waste our time and grey matter trying to figure out how to validate them as ART. And always, always always Mr. Duchamp’s urinal was invoked, as if it were THE CONSTITUTION OF ART as the fail-safe for every positive review. If anyone dared to dispute their true nature – that being crap – said disputer was ridiculed and usually received a poor grade for their critique. To add insult to injury, if someone presented a piece that took time, talent and any kind of aesthetic sensibility, that was – God, dare I say it – beautiful, the piece and the artist was labeled conventional, bourgeoise, boring or at worse, irrelevant.
    Unfortunately, I went on to teach art for 10 years, but only grades k-6. And really it wasn’t actually art but rather children’s crafts made from parent donations of whatever overflowed from their recycling bins (magazines, coffee cans, buttons, etc. etc) because for some strange reason all that NEA fed money never made it to my district’s art budget. And as a member of my state’s art teacher’s association, I can tell you the NEA monies never made it to ANY districts anywhere – ever. I never pursued my passion for art after I stopped teaching. Maybe because there was no art to pursue.

  7. Thanks for sharing you story. I take it as one of God’s mercies I was not accepted into graduate school back when I applied-I’ve only seen the experience destroy actual artists, not assist them. Despite the corruption of our would-be ruling class, art is vital to being human. Remodernism will help show the world that.

  8. Forgot to say:
    Art might be lethal. Surely, art is more of a drug than religion. Organizations subsidizing wealthy museums, instead of storing their money in a hole in the ground, covered with stones weighing 676 pounds each, these organizations should be seen as institutes selling agent orange to under-aged…
    Everybody is crooked, fraudulous. Least of all, don’t trust those who comment.
    Truth of the posting dereived from text based upon essay:
    Mossel and Vigoda (Reports, 30 September 2005, p. 2207) show that nearest neighbor
    interchange transitions, commonly used in phylogenetic Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC)
    algorithms, perform poorly on mixtures of dissimilar trees. However, the conditions leading to
    their results are artificial. Standard MCMC convergence diagnostics would detect the problem in
    real data, and correction of the model misspecification would solve it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s