Alex Aichinger
Kirsten Andersen
Brent Barksdale
Jim Couture
Andrew Downey
Natalie Farr
Joe Giardiello
Bret Hrbek
Sang Mi Kim
Ramesh Ponnuru
Tom Scerbo
Dorothy Seese
Jason Soter

Senate Candidate Bob Franks of New Jersey

Myriam Marquez is a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel

Erase Taxpayer Funding for "Art"

The National Endowment for the Arts subsidizes approximately two hundred arts and humanities programs each year through grants totaling .01% of the federal budget - a percentage that may be dismissed as trivial to most taxpayers, whose money goes to far worse causes than the "development of the arts." Right? Wrong. While the NEA claims that their support is good for art and good for America, there is strong evidence that does not support this assertion. The government's influence in the art world is not being used for the common good. Individuals are angered at the fact that they do not hold the freedom to control their own money. On average, statistics show that investments of private individuals in art museums declines as NEA funding increases, which is due partially to the public's dissatisfaction with government's intervention into the arts.

By funding art programs, through the NEA, the government determines and controls the standards of artwork - essentially defining "fundable" art. Determining this is not the job of an elite group of government agents, but the job of concerned citizens of a community.

A government committee cannot legitimize the quality of a work of art. If a community deems a piece of art valuable, it will be appraised, bought, and sold based on the standards of that community. Judgments of art are subjective and therefore no one group should be able to put a label on the true meaning of art. A great hypocrisy takes place when the government assumes the role of subsidizing individuals who create art that, according to the government, is "worthy" of NEA funding. Once such a policy is adopted, a precedent is created that encourages artists or museums to mold their works of art toward NEA criteria, essentially lowering the quality of art.

The NEA should give Americans some credit. People envision their own ideas of true art and should be able to support it freely, outside of any influence from the NEA. In 1995, when funding for the NEA was reduced, private support for the arts increased. Donors gave money to artists and museums that they enjoyed. Private donors are now hesitant to give money to organizations that provide art they find distasteful. Many Americans wonder why they should give money to a local museum that is receiving grants by the government and thus must conform to government regulations. The drop in the number of private gifts reflects a dissatisfaction with the art that is currently in circulation. The NEA has established a standard of mediocrity: a standard that pushes artists to satisfy the evaluators of their creations, rather than the members of a community.

The fact that artists are able to create and market obscene or pornographic material under the provisions of the First Amendment is an issue as well, but not the main issue. The problem is not that obscene artwork is being created, but that the average citizen is forced to fund its creation even though it may offend his or her values. If an individual decides to purchase or fund obscene, pornographic material, a broad interpretation of the constitution gives that individual the right to do so. What angers many Americans is the belief that their tax dollars should not go towards the marketing and selling of any type of artwork, whether pornographic or other.

The negative repercussions of NEA funding are great. Though the NEA believes that art is proliferating through federal grants, the quality of art is diminishing. While there are many other issues involved in this debate, the average citizen understands that his or her money could and should be used in a more productive manner - especially considering the fact that the arts will flourish without the support of the NEA. The solution: get rid of the National Endowment for the Arts and let citizens decide for themselves what they want to fund.

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