When It Comes to Culture, Texas Has Its Head in the Ground

Texas suffers from a broadly philistine and even economically unfounded attitude toward the true value of culture. Broadly speaking, it sees culture as existing in the sole domain of private enterprise. At state and city political level it seems to regard culture as superfluous, a luxury, an indulgence, probably silly and probably pretentious. In short: a waste of money.  It somehow fails to see it as the central component that engages, meshes, and lubricates the machinery of the entire civilized world – regardless of business models.

Instead, Perry prefers to promote video game designers as big business for the state. That approach to leveraging state funds will draw new revenue for sure, though not necessarily more revenue than an investment in the cultural would, and, in fact, ultimately very much less. But regardless of investment, that approach certainly won’t draw massive international respect, tourism, and tangible credibility on a world stage which will ultimately lead to untold future business opportunities. So, in terms of its impact on our own community, the myth of Dallas will be further perpetrated as big hair, beach ball bazoomers,  out-sized trucks for picking up groceries at Tom Thumb and video games (about all the above?) for people who can’t seem to get out enough. Well, this may, at least, have the added bonus of keeping the kids happy while they’re failing at school and remaining uncompetitive in the world at large.

The great modern cities of the world have benefited beyond the scope of the current American dream in having an inter-layering of private and (significant) public investment in the arts. As such, different political moods in different eras add new institutions and initiatives that form multi-layered cultural activity that ultimately drive and feed the idea of a city as a hub of intelligent human endeavor in all its forms  – including business, travel, restaurants, and so on.

I do not wish to pit one against the other in this instance – it’s not an either/or, culture vs video games, or culture vs sport, as the political arguments are so often idiotically reduced to. But extending a culture gap rather than closing one here is what will essentially keep the outside world from being interested in Texas. This may seem attractive to a certain Texan mindset, but when the low quality overbuilding in the exurbs crumbles, and the lack of investment in education and culture become painfully self-evident, Texas could end up with a similar problem that California now has, where the state can no longer support its expanded population. Surely the key to this would be in attracting sophisticated levels of business, and sophisticated individuals to provide a full spectrum of intelligent growth. Without culture, one can only expect a lowest common denominator influx of business that would leave Dallas looking something like Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. It will function – barely – but at what cost?  (Frankly, it’s not far off Brazil as it is). It is a recipe ultimately for implosion. 

Where will the relocating wizards and entrepreneurs send their kids to school? They can’t all go to St Marks and Hockaday.  In other words, the model Perry proposes is a short fix. In half a generation this type of thinking will come completely unstuck. Judging by the budget deficit, it already has. The current strategy indicates the same failure of vision as elsewhere in America. As Paul Krugman in the New York Times pointed out last January in his column ‘The Texas Omen,’ Texas was held up as the American republican panacea of no regulation, low taxation and low spending. According to the argument, if it worked in Texas, it could work elsewhere. It would, rather, seem that the experiment was an illusion. Texas is not a place renowned for investing in either education or the arts even at the best of times.

Is Texas to simply endlessly expand as a giant business center, relying on a handful of helpful privateers to build some museums and parade culture’s exterior trappings only? We can be thankful for these contributions, but it will never single-handedly build a modern culture without the city and state internalizing culture’s intrinsic value. Personally, I don’t see it to be optional. Now, more than ever, Texas, and Dallas in particular, should be investing in culture, not cutting it back. It just happens that now is the precise moment that Dallas is beginning to get the world’s attention. The spot light won’t necessarily linger on Dallas forever – especially if it can’t be seen to be making its merry dance. It’s a badly timed moment to be taking such a retrogressive step.

Photo by Richie Diesterheft via wikicommons.

11 comments on “When It Comes to Culture, Texas Has Its Head in the Ground

  1. There must be nuance in “investing in culture.” We’ve been trying to BUY culture for decades. We have to invest in real city form and real neighborhoods and the connections between them. You invest in people and the platforms for the locals to express themselves, and voila, culture emerges.

  2. I’m afraid that this article goes against all the empirical evidence available. Even as far back as the late 19th century, Nietzsche correctly observed that there was an inverse correlation between government strength and the strength of a nation’s culture. All a government ever does is support those that have already established themselves as not needing government’s help. With government money inevitably comes government restrictions. Who wants their art controlled from Austin? I don’t want my plays to have to conform to Republican or Democratic world views. Nor do I want my survival attached to my ability to bribe — er, donate to the campaigns of — elected officials. Worse for this thesis (even worse than quoting Krugman, whose ignorance of economics outside his narrow specialty is truly bizarre for a Nobel prizewinner) is that the evidence is completely against it. There is no correlation between the having a strong arts scene and strong economic growth (see Richard Florida’s work). More, the only things that attract people from outside the city are things like Broadway musicals. Which are fine, but surely not the idea of culture being promoted here. Government funded art comes in at the end, when the culture is dying, to try to prop it up.

  3. An interesting, tangentially related post on The New Republic website. And @Troy, what empirical evidence are you referring to — specifically.

  4. Mr Camplin,

    Strong art scenes and strong growth are often reciprocal and certainly occur together, although not automatically so. Wealth and growth are often prerequisites for a thriving art scene, and countries such as Britain have benefitted hugely from employing a mixture of private and public funding since 1945. It would be hard to identify where one leads and the other follows once a certain critial mass has been met.

    As such, I find Richard Florida’s writing somewhat irrelevant in this instance. He would have to make detailed studies in separate cities over extended periods of perhaps twenty five years to be entirely credible. And even then the arguments from the past may not carry forward.

    What is abundantly clear to me however, is that culture can be leveraged. It can be a major export, it can be a major attraction. Beyond that, it is a vital element within a city, like an organ within a body, the malfunction of which will lead to sickness. Look at the problems of understimulation in affluent areas such as Plano, where adolescent drug problems, depression, over-medication and therapy seem to be the norm. At least some of this might be attributed to the failure to imaginatively engage the population. It is hard to price these deficits into the under achievement of a population at large and what effect this ultimately has on a city’s economy.

    People crave culture. There will always be a curious element that looks deeper than just entertainment. Your argument about broadway musicals is simply facetious. The interest and investment created in Dallas so far through modern and contemporary art at the DMA far outstrips its other departments. It is this single aspect that is drawing significant international professional traffic through Dallas – by which I mean that the paying numbers through its doors do not tell the whole story of the museum’s success. There are ever increasing numbers of people visiting Dallas now in direct relation to culture, that will sooner or later translate to re-locations, business deals, art sales, tax revenue and so forth. These tend to be dynamic people, the sort of people that do, or will run their own companies. Sooner or later (sooner actually) there will be a need for a far higher grade of restaurant than Dallas has ever experienced. Once that bar rises, others will compete and more will come. The dynamics seem too obvious to iterate.

    As another facet, this interest, if nurtured correctly, will have the ability to grow into a viable domestic commercial and non-commercial art scene. This requires an improved Contemporary museum and improved art schools, both of which are beginning to be addressed. Liberalising art schools and challenging their lack of intellectual input will help make them more competitive and in so doing will bring about natural political change, as is the want and purpose of leading functional universities. This is merely one facet of one component of the cultural landscape. The possibilities are boundless. Private investment in art is easily as, if not more, prone to self-censorship since it always has to take into account the interests of its sponsors. Look at the dire effect advertising has on TV. A professional football game can’t even have continuous play because of it. Talk about coitus interruptus…And you talk about issues of control?

    Dallas can and will be a very different place in fifteen years time. The way in which we chose to grow it is entirely down to us and I believe that the contributions of small and large numbers of gifted individuals will be crucial. Keeping them here will be key. This is Richard Florida’s central argument; that interesting and creative people are attracted to cities that have certain cultural markers. Dallas, as I remember, tended to score neither high or low in almost any respect in Florida’s analyses. Dallas’ influx of population in terms of pure numbers presently has as much to do with other states’ misfortunes as with Texas’ ‘business friendliness’. I am sure if the economy magically improved tomorrow, there are people who would immediately return to California and elsewhere based on cultural desirability alone. Enhancing the range of quality of this population influx will be a choice that Dallas has the ability to calibrate. It can attract people of higher creative potential if it so wishes by creating the appropriate conditions. I find it impossible to believe that this will not enrich the city.

    Conservatives and right wing radicals may seek to either ignore or eradicate such possibility of change because the outcome will be too uncertain for them and an informed populus is a harder one to control. This has been for many centuries one of the concerns and functions of organised religion. Investing in culture is not about gaining control, it is ultimately about relinquishing the undesirable aspects of it.

    Culture is enlightening. Its production and its progress needs to be fully supported and invested in. WIthout it we are regressing.

    To return to Britain as an example, since that’s the country I know best: Britain chose to self-consciously invest in its culture, whether through the BBC, the Arts Council, the British Film Foundation and elsewhere, the country has accelerated its desirability as ‘a place of interest’ well beyond WWII despite the decline of its empire and the decline of its manufacturing base. It is totally ludicrous to claim that public funding or art only kicks in when the culture is dying. And even supposing that was the case, it would be like arguing that heart surgery is pointless because you’re going to die any way. Public funding is just one part of a complex system of funding that allows for a far more comprehensive and accessible cultural connection between the individual and its society.

    May I point out that Tate Modern is Britain’s second biggest tourist attraction. I cannot even guess what its weekly attendance now measures. It was made to be so – it didn’t happen by accident. It has always had a significant amount of public funding. A collective investment in art schools, intelligent medias, a 76 years old arts council providing public funding across the arts (enduring conservative and socialist governments alike) – combined with private funding, and a plethora of other institutions, ensured that Britain didn’t just die of boredom from within – if for no other reason. The public’s interest in art has never been so elevated there as it is now. No one is forcing people into the museums – they are cramming themselves in of their own free will. It was not always so, and the direction of the collective energy, at times, hinges on exceptional efforts by individuals such as Sir Nicholas Serota. But without an overriding, continued and long term commitment to the very idea of culture, none of this would ever have been possible.

    Quoting Neitschze is spurious in this instance: while his ideas still have certain currency, he is long dead. The art world in London is unrecognisable to me now compared to how it was when I first left college. There were perhaps thirty notable commercial contemporary galleries at most, very few artist-run spaces, far fewer people engaged and employed within culture in general. Since then the growth has been massive. An argument that applied twenty years ago may well be redundant now. Even my seven years in Dallas has seen considerable change here. I do not believe that there are universal timeless truths that apply to economics, city building, philosophy or politics. I believe we are in a constant state of flux and I do not believe empirical method is ever very relevant when applied to culture. The tangible evidence is out there if you need it. The truth does not lie in the pages of spurious and quasi scientific reports. Hop on a plane and fly to Tate Modern. I’m not lying.

    At one time art was wholly integrated within a societal function of religion. Since Walter Benjamin, art has been demonstrated to have shifted into a realm that is far more akin to the political. More recently, fine art has become worryingly close to becoming absorbed as only market or pure commodity. The only surety is that culture’ s form and function is in a constant state of flux. It is completely self evident to me as I look around Dallas and Fort Worth, that where there has been investment and input one way or other in culture, there is an energy that is magnetic and draws other activity to it. The ability to sell the idea of the value of intelligent investment of public funds to help the future of the area is beyond my political skill.
    One thing is for sure: the reason that Dallas has for the longest part of its history been culturally tipping toward the barren end of the scale is surely to do with lack of collective, directed effort. It can’t just be a citywide coincidence that individuals just can’t come up with stuff. There are good people everywhere, but their energy can easily dissipate to virtually zero, or worse still, it transforms into a negative force.

    The laissez-faire attitude is a fundamentally unsocial one. It does not work toward the common greater good. Privateering alone has not brought Dallas up to what might be considered a competitive level as yet. We have the power to change this situation. Or not.

    And if not, then at least we’ll have loads of video games showing us what the rest of the world looks like on our play stations, or whatever the medicated, infantalized populus is currently educating itself with.

    At no time in my 36 years of living in Britain did I fret for a single second that the government was controlling the culture, controlling my thoughts of foisting ideas on me in relation to art that I was unable to process and reject at will if I so chose. Your phobia about control is unfounded. It is just not how it is. The problems reside in the existing poor working models that have occurred here so far. This is not to say a far more successful model could not be implemented.

    And finally, anyone could have written Paul Krugman’s article – his knowledge of economics is irrelevant to this argument – he was pursing a logical line of others’ thought that was acknowledging that American republicans hold Texas as a working model, and that Texas appears to have a severe budget deficit like many other states right now. I believe Krugman prefers the Keynesian model to the classical one – but what do I know, I’m a lowly artist. What did Greenspan know about economics?Jack shit apparently. Maybe he knew more about art?

  5. Sorry, that was meant to be Nietzsche. It’s past my bed time. And that was Jack S**t, not Jack ****

  6. Richard, First, Nietzsche is relevant, because human nature does not change. Governments are oppressive, even at their best. Governments are conservative in their support, even at their most liberal. When something is subsidized, of course you are going to have a “vibrant” culture. But its a false vibrancy, much like the housing bubble created a false strong economy. Every fool will take advantage of the cheap money, and eventualyl everything will end up wrecked. My opposition to government involvement has everything to do with my loving the arts and culture and wanting it to actually be strong. A bubble is a cancer on the economy — including the cultural economy.

    In Cities and the Creative Class, Florida listed Dallas as high in both the arts& culture and in high-tech economic growth. This is very much contrary to the thesis of this article that Dallas is a cultural wasteland. But he also said there was no correlation between the arts & culture and high-tech economic growth (which is the primary driver of economic growth nowadays). Make of that what you will. It certainly seems to argue that public funding of the arts is not necessarily going to contribute to real economic growth. But it may also argue that the reason why is that the arts and humanities have been so devalued that the creative workers driving our economy aren’t educated in those areas enough to want them. If this is the case, it argues for stronger emphasis on the arts and humanities — and an understanding of their true value for each person — in education. Funding through various forms of patronage and attendance would then follow, and the problem would take care of itself.

    In any case, there is no evidence that the U.S. is hurting for artists of any kind. There are more, and more successful artists of all sorts than anyplace else ever before in history. That’s a result of the free market and a general lack of government funding. Regardless of what Britain does and how it does it, you have to be pretty clueless about American politics to believe that government funding here is ever going to be untouched by partisan issues. One side demands the government not fund anything even remotely religious or potentially offensive to a wide variety of groups, while the other side demands the government not fund anything deemed anti-religious or offensive to their sensibilities. What the heck is left? Never mind works that are explicitly political, or are understood to be. That’s what happens when the U.S. government tries to fund the arts, as anyone who has paid attention to the news knows. In a real sense, this is fortunate, because real innovation has taken place as a result, without the threat of a bubble economy developing. You’re going to have a stronger culture and art scene when you have people who are serious about the production of art rather than who are in it because they are following the easy money.

  7. Nietzsche: “God is dead.”

    God: “Nietzche’s dead.”

    Freud: “We correct, we’re all dead.”

  8. Mr. Camplin,
    I won’t post after this – and I am not so much arguing with you now as taking the opportunity to lay stuff out there. I very much doubt we will ever agree, but I appreciate you expressing your attitudes and ideas with clarity and in an informed manner, as I think it is all-important. Respectfully, R

    It’s a myth to assume that government funding of arts necessarily has to equate with easy money, or handouts to anyone that can hold a crayon. This is not how it works in what I hesitate to call ‘more advanced’ societies. I agree the local public funding systems so far haven’t seemed to have worked well in this regard – although I haven’t been around here long enough to really comment. But I daresay the odd $3000.00 grant awarded by the DMA has at least on occasion been put to good use by various local artists of talent. Are you saying this is also nannying – making the artists slack, lazy, overly cautious? My experience has been that the museum has shown considerable responsibility in seeking to award to the most credible and interesting artists. What is so different in this scenario in principal? The money comes from a private bursary, but the museum still receives substantial city funding. The museum, after all, has considerable public responsibility.

    However, I feel that American politics in general sometimes serves its people badly and is causing a dreadful disconnect. There are better ways of doing things, and without wishing to sound like a Tea Partier, there is a ludicrous either/or situation here. The very fact that you insist on using the phrase ‘strong government’ as an automatic pejorative tells some of this story. By taking a position – instead of a position of ‘not so much position’ – and trying to bring about change, whether through an individual artwork, or to reform an entire government office –there is possibility for growth. Or you can give up on all forms of government – I mean, why not take it all the way back to President Jackson and just barter for art works with turnips and buy horses with bags of gold?

    To repeat my point from before, American culture can be stymied as much by private investment as much by public. Both can fall foul of the lowest common denominator. Hollywood is by and large very conservative – it’s all private money. Anything that is remotely off-kilter is forced in to a sub-cultural non-public space and becomes one way or another a sort of faux underground activity. Not that this is a radical position; merely one that lacks appropriate visibility, so becomes a sort of default and sordid Beavis and Butthead world. It’s a Little House on the Prairie Badly in Need of Some Major Repairs sort of a mindset and I see it reflected in work being produced here.

    If one takes the long view, other societies have benefited from successions of administrations: left, right, left, right – much like walking, one foot in front of the other. To borrow a cliché from Europe (although this is not necessarily true here) the left spends, the right saves – and so on. (Although here, the immediate system is the right borrows and leverages like there’s no tomorrow, the not-so-right is stuck carrying the can.) Neither is necessarily a better system – but in the switching back and forth, institutions and efficient funding systems are established that are broadly speaking somewhat separate from party politics, and except in extreme times such as these, have survived and gained a level of critical autonomy. I stress, these aren’t about benefits and handouts, nor are they the sole or primary form of funding. Here, the various governments are either (by Euro standards) extreme right, or moderate right – the first whiff of a social policy by a Democrat government and everyone cries blue murder and thinks the country has turned communist. Many here seem to barely understand moderate and moderate left governments. A bit like Derek Zoolander, only able to turn in one direction, America’s political process limps and hops along, right, a bit right, right, and right again. It kind of goes around in small circles, falling over itself.

    I agree that there is a certain point where there can be an over-indulgence in art and art spending. Some people argue we simply have too much cultural production everywhere now and that this is a problem. But certainly not in Dallas. How many novels have ever been published in Dallas? How many world-class artists have ever come out of here? My argument is about local economies, and not cure-alls across the board. I believe Dallas, at this moment in time, and probably Texas at large, would hugely benefit in investment in education and culture. Maybe not forever. But for the next fifteen years perhaps. I think the timing would have been good, and it would represent part of a cycle. All of this is now moot, since there is a large budget deficit. Starving the art out of the people is one way of doing it, but I simply don’t agree that this has worked well here before. Did Richard Florida ever visit a Dallas gallery by the way? Somehow I think not. He’s a statistician.

    The answer is either that the education system hasn’t been good enough and the talent is underdeveloped, or that the work can’t gain meaningful traction and exposure because there are no mechanisms or institutions to effectively leverage or promote the arts effectively here at a grass roots level.

    Added to this, despite your claim that the free market works so well when people are ‘free’ to express themselves -why is almost all work produced here, literary or visual, so apparently utterly apolitical and seemingly terrified to fully engage and address any issue at all with real gusto- be it expressly political, fully indulged in a committed sensual aesthetic, adopting a honed critical position, or whatever…Where are the shows in Europe, India or Asia, “New Art from Texas” Believe me, I care about this stuff deeply too, and have endeavored long and hard to help join many dots. There is an astonishing level of polite self-censorship and lack of real exploration taking place here as if virtually every artist out there is working to your version of a prescribed local government nannying grant remit.

    Martin Creed, a Scottish artist, will soon be showing at the Nasher. A former Turner Prize winner, and by now very much an establishment figure in many regards. His glib and minimalist gestures relate perhaps to his Quaker background. He and his work can be very funny. Some of his work involves extremely explicit close-ups of fornication, defection, vomiting etc. Probably not what you’ll be seeing at the Nasher – but my point is that, A, there is no question he’s a thoughtful and good artist, and B he is has been fully supported by the British art system, both privately and publicly. No doubt there are complaints and controversy surrounding the work at times. In Britain there will be appropriate warnings at entrances to shows, and the odd letter written back to enraged visitors, standing by the work and apologizing for any offence caused – but not retracting it. This is an issue of courage and principal. But the work is not designed to shock – it is actually very human and very real. A sophisticated audience begins to get this over time, because it carries the authority of many institutions. The investment in promoting culture in this way ultimately educates audiences. It instills tolerance – an idea you may be against. You may say this is decadent. Maybe it is. But at least it is not sitting on one’s hands being afraid to ever fully engage with society.

    Here, ‘outrageous’ content (in a public-funded context) is only seen as permissible perhaps if is clearly proven to be a feasible expression of an under-represented group or victimized group – hence perhaps, explicit nudity in a homosexual art work might be seen (by a liberal viewer) as a necessary or integral expression of a victimized sexuality, or conversely by an extreme conservative, as not art at all and a public outrage for even invoking the ‘h’ word. Neither scenario should be justification in of itself for inappropriate promotion or censorship if the work has no artistic merit perhaps, but on the other hand why the hell wouldn’t local government publicly show some porn or something mildly erotic– we all look at it– and if it does, most aspects are probably covered by the First Amendment and public bodies should simply be more aggressive in defending art as such. Not a great example, perhaps – but let’s not forever be hand-tied and tongue-tied by issues that almost always relate to some form of hypocrisy.

    Burying heads in the sand doesn’t move the game forward at all. In a free market scenario in Dallas, one sees (and I exaggerate to make a point) the near equivalent of perpetual still life painting so as to optimize the possibility of sales and maybe one day a place in a museum. It has not produced much radical work to my knowledge.
    Patrick Short (please see his Creative Time comments) is right in being outspoken about an entrenched conservatism that he sees here. I do not necessarily agree to the letter with his comments, but in general I am with him on much of what he says. I may share certain naiveties and certain passions with his outlook – I don’t think it’s a bad thing to foster idealism at this point in time. Where I disagree with him is that his assumption that his projects, and others like it, should be automatically supported, but in a free market situation. His conclusion is that major private collectors should invest in his projects by collecting work that they probably don’t want. This throws us back at charity, which is a central tenet of Tea Party arguments and conservative arguments, which I find entirely problematic and is a whole other subject for debate.

    His project might be a case in point for a degree of public funding if it could prove to have a degree of excellence, and an important function in the community, a depth of endeavor and a suitable maturity and not merely nightclub aesthetic (not casting aspersions here Patrick – I’m making a hypothetical case). But I think his efforts could turn in to something. I don’t know him, and I use this only by way of example to make a point. It attempts to bring energy and life to a scene that is more often too enervating. The pursuit of a free market sensibility here will never support a project such as Patrick’s in my view – the alternative is pandering to a Dallas market obsessed with stripy fifth-hand derivations of decorative abstraction. Patrick and I would agree on this particular point I think.

    And all the time, ironically, the art being heavily invested in here is being generated in, and bought from, far more liberal societies than our immediate one that operate with none of the essentially conservative options listed so far. Your assumption is that the free market is somehow more radical, produces more growth, and limits bubbles. Surely the reverse has been demonstrated to be the case in some of these points – especially when applied to art in Texas.

    I haven’t read the Florida book you refer to, and defer to your greater knowledge – however I’ve read most of his book on the Rise of the Creative Class. If R Florida ranks Dallas high on arts and culture then one can only question his empirical methods of collecting information. Dallas has produced very little art and culture that even registers on a national, let alone international level. It has museums and concert halls that have been idiotically reduced at times to playing themes form Star Trek to keep their doors open. The new theatre does not seem to be doing particularly well. Dallas is better than Montgomery, Alabama, I’m guessing, but so what?

    Right wing laissez- faire attitudes to economics seem to have driven the economic bubble. The free market’s use of leveraging art as investment is also what very much drove the art bubble – which saw an unquestionably out of hand inflation of art prices that has had a toxic effect on the art world. This particular argument doesn’t’ hold up. A level of public funding in the arts is certainly not going to cause a bubble – a local budget deficit possibly, but not a bubble. Public funding is only rarely directly buying or commissioning individual works. It is only allocating funds to various institutions and individuals to carry on as they are.

  9. The economic bubble was driven by the Federal Reserve driving down interest rates and the federal government pushing housing on people who couldn’t afford houses. There was no laissez-faire attitude. It was all welfare statism and central planning. Neither are free market in the least. The U.S. does not have a free market and hasn’t had one in a long time. We have crony capitalism, which is utterly different.

    Now, we are talking about two different things here. You are talking about the way things are funded now. Indeed, current funding is very conservative, and focused on local institutions that are able to make use of local knowledge. That is different from direct funding of artists. The former creates a conservative art scene, one that is at equilibrium and relatively uncreative (sound familiar?), while the latter encourages people as I laid out.

    Most of your complaints have more to do with the local culture than anything. The local artists are apolitical and conservative. The tastes of the average filmgoer is conservative and not avant garde. You complain that the avant garde films have to go to the art houses, but what you don’t seem to understand is that without the free market, there wouldn’t be art houses for them to go to. The market actually is providing the minority with their tastes, as well as the majority with their tastes. Sometimes, an art house film goes mainstream. The market allows everyone to get what they want, and does not impose anyone’s values on others. Nor do I want to impose my artistic values on anyone else — I am happy to pursuade, but unwilling to use government force to impose it on others or to force others to support works they don’t like.

    The bottom line is that if you want works of a certain kind, feel free to try to provide them. Sell pieces, or tickets — get private funding from those who agree with your vision. That’s how it really works with private funding: you provide the service, and get people who agree with your vision and service to donate the money. Voluntary giving is the only ethical form of giving.

    I would love to see a more vibrant art scene in Dallas. But government funding will destroy what does exist, not improve it. The publicly funded opera house, Dallas theater, and DMA give us the great works of the past — which have their place, to be sure — but they are not spuring anyone to create new works. They do not contribute to a vibrant art scene. Private galleries, private theaters, etc. do. Create a market for these things, and the art scene will flourish. Look to government, and you will stagnate it.

  10. Troy;
    That is the most insightful and cohesive essay I have ever read on the diagnosis of our state of the arts. How could anyone argue with the logic. As a practicing artist, it is all patently clear. Thanks for taking time for the “eye opening”. This needs to be published widespread.