Our Investment in Art


From the world of over-the-top, ridiculous, and unnecessary
spending comes an example from none other than the Maine Arts Commission.


The Maine Arts Commission gets tax payers’ money from direct
funding by the legislature. It states that its purpose, although it claims it
struggles to meet this objective, is to “support the arts primarily through
artists working at the local level in a community context” by issuing grants
that need to be matched one to one. In other words it props up art, or what
could loosely be defined as art, which would fail in Maine or any other environment on its own.
You must be wondering why the commission warrants such a negative indictment
(Beside the fact that it is a State Agency). My cynicism about the arts
commission comes from watching this YouTube video: 

This production called “Quarryography”, by the Opera House
in Stonington, Maine was funded by your tax dollars in the
2008 fiscal year. How much of your money did the state spend on this “work of
art?” This production cost the Maine
tax payers $5000. If you think the Opera House was finished taking your money,
you are wrong. The next investor was, once again, you and your tax dollars in
the form of a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. That’s
right: the YouTube video you just watched cost you $15,000.


“Quarryography” is only one example of a vast list of grants
issued by the State of Maine
for “art”. Along with the grant to Stonington‘s
Opera House there were 99 other grants that totaled a massive $586,000 in
fiscal year 2008 and this nightmare perpetually repeats itself each year and
has since 1978. Not only does this toilet with our money in it continue to
flush each year, but some organizations are repeat grant recipients including
the Opera House. In fiscal year 2009 the director of “Quarryography,” Alison
Chase received $13,000 for an art fellowship. Maybe she needed it to pay the
fines for all the OSHA violations in Quarryography’s production. (Yah, right)


The madness does not end there. Your governor, John Baldacci
feels this sort of spending stimulates the economy: “The Creative Economy
is a catalyst for the creation of new jobs in Maine communities. People who create jobs
want to live in places that have a diverse cultural mix and an innovative and
educated workforce. Maine
will be competitive economically if we continue to capitalize on the synergies
between entrepreneurship, education, the arts and quality of life.” A
sentiment even President Obama can agree on. His “American Recovery and
Reinvestment Act” included a grant that went to the Maine Arts Commission
totaling $293,100; that on top of the $816,500 in tax payers’ money that is
channeled through the National Endowment of the Arts to the Maine Arts
Commission, each year, in the form of a “partnership grant”. What goods and
services could projects like “Quarryography” possibly create? The answer to
that is in the net benefit the economy has gained through Obama’s stimulus.
(Nearly zero)


File this away for the next time anyone says we cannot
afford a budget or tax cut.