There will be no new posts today on Lines and Colors about art or artists, no lovely images of art to inspire or amuse you. This is perhaps a portent of things to come, but today it’s just a protest.
Lines and Colors is on strike today in support of the J20 Art Strike, calling for arts organizations and institutions to not do business as usual as a symbolic act of resistance to the looming shift in government power, and the potentially disastrous effect it will have on the arts, humanities and creative endeavor and discourse in general.
Yes, it’s a small, mostly symbolic gesture, but so are the recently announced plans by the incoming administration to eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
It would cut $296 million from the federal government’s almost $4,000,000,000,000.00 federal budget as a “cost saving” measure.
Even ignoring the fact that it’s been demonstrated that every Federal dollar spent on arts funding brings back nine or ten times that amount to the treasury in the form of increased economic activity and tax revenue, the amount of “savings” represents less than two tenths of one percent of the federal budget – for all practical purposes, statistically insignificant.
So this is really a gesture, a raised middle finger to the arts community to let us know how much they despise us.
Given the avowed intentions and previous actions of many of the legislators now taking control of the congress, this is likely just the first in a series of ongoing actions that will make the creation of art and the free exchange of ideas more difficult in the coming years.
In the past, I’ve tried to keep my political views in check when writing Lines and Colors, and have only expressed them in subtle ways.
That ends today.
These people have declared themselves the enemy of much that I care about, and are therefore my enemies.
Little acts like this, and anything I may say, are also likely statistically insignificant, but I have to make some kind of symbolic statement of resistance to avowed enemies of the arts, even if just for my own sense of self respect.
In writing for Lines and Colors, I’ll keep my expressions of concern related to the arts, but I’ll state them clearly. If you don’t like them, you’re welcome to comment, but I won’t tolerate flame wars, and I reserve the right to control what does or doesn’t appear on my own blog.
Lines and Colors is, after all, my opinions about art and artists — what I find valuable or of interest and consider worth sharing with others. If the expression of my political opinions as they relate to the health of the arts community in this country offends you, you’re welcome to seek inspiration elsewhere.
If you think I’m overreacting, you’re welcome to your opinion. Bookmark this post and put a reminder in your calendar to stop back in four years to see if I was wrong. (I desperately hope I’m wrong.)
That is, of course, if Lines and Colors is still here in four years.
One of the other announced initiatives of the incoming wave of big business uber alles is the elimination of Net Neutrality — from which control of the internet will be ceded to the telecoms and big entertainment companies.
This will happen so gradually you won’t notice at first, but it will change inexorably until the web becomes more like TV — a one-way flow of content and information from corporate producer to consumer, and a one-way flow of money in the other direction.
Oh, you’ll still be able to use Facebook and Twitter, but big content sites from the corporate providers will download like lightning (if you pay for them), and independent sites like Lines and Colors will start to load slower and slower and slower until they’re too painful to use.
If you don’t know what Net Neutrality is, or why it matters, see this handy explanation in comics form from Economix.
For more on the strike, see the J20 Art Strike page.
More to the point, if you want to know why I feel this way, see my plea to Lines and Colors readers prior to the election to vote in defense of the arts: “Vote like the future of the arts in the US depends on it“, in which I go into more detail on why I think this administration and the accompanying shift in power in the congress bode ill for the arts community in this country.
They’re just this day assuming office, and — sadly — I already have to say “I told you so.”
83 Replies to “Lines and Colors is on strike today, January 20, 2017”
PLEASE NOTE: I have removed some posts that were just the usual partisan political rants. Opposing viewpoints are welcome, but whatever your opinion of the incoming government and its policies, please keep your comments here related to the arts and government policies that concern the arts, education, communication and free expression.
Thanks Charley, with you in voice and spirit.
I read your blog faithfully, and am grateful to you for clarifying the issues relating to the arts. I hadn’t heard the specific proposal to eliminate funding for the arts, and am now more horrified and depressed about the election than ever. I have recently switched from listening to Public News Radio to the Public music station because I can’t stand to hear so much of what is happening, the thought of the only thing I can listen to going silent is appalling.
As someone who has spent the last twenty years working as a professional artist in Hollywood I’m hopeful the new president will cut the NEA budget to the bone if not eliminated it altogether.
The government has no business endorsing art. Artists who embody current political fads will be supported while those who struggle for years to develop time-honored tradition craft ignored.
I endorse the separation between Art and State.
Thanks, Carol. Hopefully, you’ll take encouragement from the reactions of others against these measures. Many of the policies of the incoming administration are not popular with the majority of Americans. I think it’s worth remembering that the incoming president lost the popular election by something like three million votes, and won because of the electoral college, which is heavily weighted in favor of less populous states like those in the midwest. I believe popular sentiment is against these cuts.
Thank you so much, Charlie.
There seems to be some shortsighted comments, here and elsewhere, regarding the NEA and what they provide. The NEA does far more than merely granting money to controversial contemporary artists. Just because those cases get sensationalized in the press doesn’t mean they carry more weight as to their importance.
See Charley’s first post on this linked from this post and go to the NEA site itself.
I personally know of at least one inner city group in my area that might not otherwise have exposure to the arts, and not just the visual arts, without the NEA. For some of us, myself included, we may have grown up in an artistic family and had direct exposure to the arts so we take our artistic path for granted (no pun intended). For many that is not the case. Sometimes it is simply granting (easier) access to art and that can be enough to get the ball rolling in the right direction.
“Sometimes it is simply granting (easier) access to art and that can be enough to get the ball rolling in the right direction.’
But it has not stopped there. The people who become the State officers handing out the grants are precisely the folks who will make decisions based on politics. We see this every day. And, of course, the State being what it is any true individualism is stomped to powder as soon as it raises it’s unruly head.
“The people who become the State officers handing out the grants are precisely the folks who will make decisions based on politics.”
Martin, I think you missed my point altogether.
I am talking about how the NEA brings exposure to the art world, politics or not, to those who might otherwise miss out.
The one I refer to was a young women who grew up underprivileged without any access to art. Part of a group attending an art night special event. Her face lit up like I had never seen as she told me about the experience. Would not have happened without NEA grants for this kind of show.
And lets face it, politics IS in everything. It is even in the art world without the NEA. That should not stop us. If we wait for a perfect politic-free system we will wait forever.
Caveman, Martin & David,
Thanks for continuing the discussion.
Though David is certainly right that the value of the NEA lies beyond its grants to individual artists (who I rarely find worthy of attention); it’s not the NEA itself that matters — as I mentioned in the original post, the NEA represents a tiny part of the artistic activity in the country, and an insignificant percentage of the federal budget.
It’s the attitude and intentions behind the symbolic defunding of federal cultural initiatives that matters.
It bodes ill for other aspects of policy change that are much more relevant — such as the gutting of Net Neutrality, potential changes in copyright law, tax law and freelance contract law, the potential elimination of arts and humanities programs in public schools (and perhaps even the defunding of public education altogether) that could have disastrous effects on artists as individuals, the arts community in general and society as a whole.
Eliminating funding for the NEA is just the symbolic tip of the iceberg.
Thank you for the comfort and beauty you have given us all those years and will give us in the years to come. If Lines and Colors slows down we will have to be more patient and make efforts to find you. THe years to come won’t be easy as we all feel here in Belgium too. But maybe it will develop a tighter solidarity between people of good will, in and between different areas as the artistic, the environmental, the scientific and economic . An awakening that must be real and not captured by slumbering opportunism of all political sides.
I think was can take some positive spirit from the enormity of the Women’s march, not only in the voices raised in opposition to this administration’s stated policies, but in the mobilization of great numbers of people to active participation in resistance to those policies.
As a consumer of the Arts, meaning I belong to local arts museums, go to arts fairs and purchase works from artists I favor, and generally just enjoy seeing and experiencing the works that artists create, I would like to point out something about the NEA and government in general.
Every dollar that comes from the government first starts out as a dollar in our pockets, taken from us by threat of force. That is what government is, the threat of force. Try *not* paying your taxes one year and see what happens: grumpy guys with guns will show up and encourage your cooperation. And once they’ve collected your (my) money, it gets distributed according to political policies. It’s always political.
The NEA belongs to that same system, and is every bit as politicized as any other organization dependent on forced tax support.
So the only way an artist is totally free is if they do not receive money that first started out as taxes taken from my pocket first.
I prefer to support artists who are independent of government support.
KPKo, Thanks for your comment.
While I understand your view, and it’s a valid one, I think it’s actually beside the point in the concerns I have toward the attitude of those in control of the federal government toward policies, laws and regulation that affects the arts and cultural activity in general.
The dollars will come out of your pocket no matter what, and you’re correct that how it’s spent is always political.
The question is will a tiny fraction of the budget go to arts and humanities education, support for public education and initiatives that encourage creative activity, or will it all just go for more unnecessary pork barrel weapons projects and corporate welfare?
Thanks, Charley. I appreciate this post.
I appreciate your action. We must not support the current administration. They not only threaten to cut federal support of the arts, but they plan to destroy the safety net that protects the most vulnerable Americans. It is this safety net that allows artists to take lifestyle risks and live creative lives. Women and minorities in particular. Many successful artists have experienced a “starving artist” phase and depended on food stamps and WIC programs to feed their children.
You’re right, and there is another factor — I’ve seen far too many pleas for help for artists of in various fields (many of whom make very small incomes) who are facing serious health issues without access to some way to pay for healthcare. The Affordable Care Act was a helpful step in relieving some of that, but of course, it’s the first thing on the chopping block for the new administration.
“So this is really a gesture, a raised middle finger to the arts community to let us know how much they despise us.”
My thoughts exactly. I enjoy your blog very much, applaud your convictions and wish you every good thing.
Thanks, Charles. I appreciate it.
The best argument for NN you can put up is a comic strip? For those wanting a more in depth look for agreeing or disagreeing you might want to start here.
Perhaps not the best argument, but the simplest and quickest.
It is apparent, though, that I should offer some additional information in a bit more depth — even if only to counter the pile of “alternatative facts” in the article you link to.
“Net neutrality: What it is, and why it matters; The Hill, 2015
“Net neutrality: what is it and why does it matter?“; The Guardian, 2014
“Net Neutrality“; Wikipedia
“What Everyone Gets Wrong in the Debate Over Net Neutrality“, Wired, 2014
“Protecting Net Neutrality and the Open Internet: 2016 in Review“, Electronic Frontier Foundation
I concur. We will need art more than ever to survive this travesty. Thank you for your words. As much as I prefer to live quietly in peace and make art, the time has come to gather our words, our paintbrushes, our songs, and fight back as if our lives depend on it – because they do. .
Thanks, Sheryl. Communicating our concerns to one another is a start. We should all take heart from the Women’s March that many are willing to take action to make their voices heard on a larger scale.
Thank you Charley for taking a stand on this issue by breaking your neutral stance. The people’s voice needs to be heard. The Arts are essential and have been a way of communication throughout the centuries. I have great admiration for all of you who are making a difference in the resistance against the new government by bringing awareness to the many issues that are at stake. Your currently actions are uniting your country instead of dividing it. It is a valiant fight that need to continue. Bon courage et bonne chance!
I think recent events may have made many of us focus on what’s important and of value — in much the way natural disasters do when they threaten what we too easily take for granted.
Don’t give and don’t take.
Looking forward to taxes being cut and and insurance options that don’t have sky high deductibles (Obamacare) rendering them useless. This will help me as an artist far more than endowments that are allocated by taste-makers of questionable objectivity. Artists, and others, have to stop looking for handouts, and learn how to make their practice self-sufficient and valuable in a free economy, like the rest of society. You are not anymore precious than your neighborhood plumber or construction worker. There are many more essential levels on Maslow’s pyramid that come before overtly politicized government art spending.
This is related to a general problem in the modern day college world where there is little connection between education and economic reality. That problem is particularly acute in the art college world where piles of student debt are acquired on a quick road to financial ruin. Apparently, none of the wise professors bother telling the students what they know is coming. It is time for the art world to get real, grow up, and stop whining. This small weaning step will be met by the inevitable tantrums, but joining the self-sufficient world of adulthood is always tough. There is no financial accountability in the modern day education of the next generation of artists and it has to stop. Maybe this little message from a new accountability-oriented political movement will be the beginning of that process.
Someone wrote to me: I heard Alan Watts say that ‘at the time humans created a money economy, they omitted artists, philosophers, and clergy. Those people,’ the parable goes, ‘would live on air.’
I say in response that we are all artists. We are all philosophers. We are all clergy. Living itself is the ultimate art. Living as a self-sufficient, honest, ethical member of society is the ultimate philosophy. Being a patient, good parent is the ultimate clergy. Being a devoted faithful spouse, a caring available friend, a giving, participating member of a community; all of these are art, or human expression of higher purpose, in its essential form.
Yes, we express and celebrate these higher purposes through music, story and visual creativity – and we delegate that expression to those who are more skilled than us, but the celebration is not the essence. We need to support that essence; honest self-sufficiency, whole and wholesome family, and continuous community – the essential societal constructs that increase human happiness and higher purpose – and when the essence is hurting, that comes first. All over America, in our inner cities, in our rural areas, in places from coast to coast, those essentials are hurting. People have lost the resources to be proud self-sufficient honest members of society. Yet, government wants their hard earned tax-dollars to decide for them how to artistically celebrate life. And not just to decide, but often to spend it on overtly politicized, leftist government activism thinly disguised as supporting the arts.
Artist too can be honest and self-sufficient as members of a free society and there are ways to do that if we get off some of our high horses.
A few weeks ago, my wife pointed out to our little boy’s playgroup teacher, a quiet grandmother, how clever her wooden project that she made with her students was. The teacher’s eyes lit up with such light that I am still feeling the glow weeks later. She talked about how for years she has been looking and working on perfecting that particular project, finding the perfect wood and dowels that allow the children to participate and interact. She is an artist. She is contributing more inspiration to society than many of the mindless monstrosities adorning our modern day temples of ugliness known as art museums. Don’t grab more of her tax money because you have labeled yourself as part of the elite caste of artists; because your expressive skill is more complex and focused than hers. Let her decide how to help herself. Let her decide how to celebrate her inner light.
I am so glad to finish reading all these comments with this one of Jacks. I couldn’t have said it better. Thanks Jack!
(Sigh.) As I have tried to point out in my original post and several times in the course of this discussion, the NEA itself is insignificant, both in terms of artistic activity in the U.S. and as part of the federal budget. It’s impact on either is so small as to be effectively zero.
The NEA is not the point.
The act of defunding the NEA is a symbolic gesture on the part of the new administration, and what matters is not the NEA itself, but the intentions and attitudes signified by that gesture.
The gesture is a raised middle finger to the arts and humanities in this nation, and everything and everyone associated with them.
The real damage from those with this attitude will be in changes to copyright law, tax law, freelance contract law and rules of arbitration, along with education funding and other more practical issues that will dramatically effect artists and creative individuals for the worse — including the gutting of the Affordable Care Act (which has provided many low-income artists and freelancers with healthcare they can actually afford for the first time ever), and the eventual gutting of Medicare and Social Security. (If you think I’m exaggerating the intentions of these individuals, you haven’t been paying attention, or you’ve been willfully closing your eyes.)
Anyone who thinks eliminating the NEA will somehow result in more money in their pocket is indulging in a naive fantasy.
There are about 325 million people in the US; about 240 million of those are adults; The best figures I can find with a quick search estimate that about 120 million of those pay federal income tax. The annual budget of the NEA is about $145 million.
Even assuming that any reduction in federal spending will find it’s way back to the pockets of working class or middle class Americans (a highly unlikely scenario), your share of the NEA’s annual operating costs would come to a whopping $1.20.
Feel rich yet?
I’ll say it again: defunding the NEA is not the point, it’s just an indication of an attitude towards the arts on the part of the new administration and those in congress. It’s the damage individuals with this attitude will do in other areas that is the real issue. Defunding the NEA is just a canary in a coal mine.
Keep the government out of the arts, they have no business there. Let the free market do its work, supplemented by private charities. Of course copyright should be rigidly enforced, including cracking down on rampant piracy.
The real danger, as I see it, is from leftists who want to criminalize hate speech and promote a Marxist social justice agenda. These are the people we should be worried about right now, the far left equivalent of the religious right culture warriors of the 80s and 90s who wanted to ban violence, pornography, profanity, and blasphemy. The threat of censorship comes from all quarters, and as artists we must be eternally vigilant. The freedom to create what we want without restriction or fear of online hate mobs is more important than any other issue.
Thanks for your comment, Augustus, but I have to take issue with some of your points.
As I’ve tried relentlessly to point out (please take the time to read my comment just above yours), government “funding” of the arts is not the issue. Defunding the NEA is just a symptom of a change in attitude that will play out in more important ways.
The idea that copyright law, which was originally created to protect individual creators, is still being applied that way is an illusion. Copyright laws, and the way they are applied, have gradually changed to favor the powerful media conglomerates at the expense of the individual creator (particularly in the changes in the Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998).
Changes in copyright law to benefit corporations at the expense of individuals will continue at an accelerated pace under this administration. The same with contract law and rules of arbitration that will have a disastrous effect on freelance illustrators, concept artists and individual painters.
Though overzealous “political correctness” can certainly be a problem, censorship is much more likely to come from corporate interests — and copyright law is being bent to that end. Many of the changes to copyright law are a misuse of it to suppress the release of information about security vulnerabilities and negative reviews of products. Copyright law is even being misused to prevent people from repairing their own vehicles and other products.
The “free market” does not operate to protect your interests as an individual. It is the selfish interests of the wealthy and powerful that are the threat to individual freedoms, as has always been the case throughout history. The function of of representative governments (when they function) has been to protect us from them.
Individual creators will be ground under the heel of big corporate interests without the laws that currently afford them some protection. The current administration appears poised to work tirelessly to remove those protections, to give the corporations free reign and take rights away from individual creators.
A government that acts primarily in the interests of corporations (i.e. the “free market”) is called a corporatocracy, and for an example of how it plays out, read about the history of Germany in the 1930’s.
This is the real threat to the “freedom to create”.
Comments are closed.