Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I'm a stimulus package all by myself

Two of my favorite mainstream media blogs that cover theatre - Culture Monster at the Los Angeles Times and Theater Loop, by Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune - have stepped into the debate over whether assistance for the arts should be part of the economic stimulus package.

At Culture Monster, Christopher Knight notes that the Senate passed, with bipartisan support, an amendment submitted by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma "to ensure that taxpayer money is not lost on wasteful and non-stimulative projects." That means excluding "any ... museum, theater [or] art center" from getting aid.

In response, Knight offers "Five Reasons Congress Hates the Arts."
  • The culture industry is cosmopolitan, so flag-waving options are few.
  • The culture industry is pluralistic, but Congress is only marginally so.
  • As corporations, arts institutions are nonprofit, so there's no money to be made via lobbyists.
  • Culture is girlie, not manly.
  • The arts often look at sexual experience -- eek!
And at The Theater Loop, Chris Jones makes a case for why the arts deserve assistance:

"Economic stimulus is dependent on the human spirit. The arts create confidence and self-worth, and those qualities in turn foster fiscal activity. The arts build neighborhoods and can help stem the decline in property values. The current recession is most devastating in inner cities, precisely where the arts are at their best.

The idea that the arts don't create jobs is absurd, Jones argues: "they just fuel different kinds of struggling workers, workers unaccustomed to bonuses. Their role in generating billions of dollars in ancillary economic activity for stores, restaurants and the travel business has been proven in bucketloads of surveys and analyses."

As someone who spent a week in New York City last fall, I can personally attest to all of the economic activity I stimulated:
  • Amtrak, which got me there and back
  • the hotel where I stayed
  • all of the restaurants where I ate
  • all of the stores where I shopped
  • taxi rides and bus and subway fares
  • museum admissions
  • the $5 I paid to a sidewalk vendor for an umbrella
What do all of those things have in common? They provide jobs. Heck, I was practically a one-woman stimulus package. And that's not even counting all the money I spent on theatre tickets. The theatre - you know, an art - is the whole reason why I went.


Linz McC said...

I am with you, Esther. My last two trips to NY were specifically to see some shows on Broadway. And the other stuff I just stuffed in around it. They always turn into the most expensive trips because I am so busy stimulated the economy while I am there!

Vance said...

I still can't believe there are people out there who don't see the validity culture adds to society, let alone the economy.

Are they really going to have to wait until all movie theatre are closed down, all TV becomes cheap reality shows, and all theatres are non-existent before they realize what a mess society would become?

Esther said...

Hey Linz,
Great to hear from you! For me, the wonderful thing about New York is, I can sightsee all day long, then have this incredible array of entertainment to choose from at night - all within walking distance of my hotel.

Esther said...

Hey Vance, I think they just don't realize or don't want to accept that arts contribute to the economy, too, in all of the ways that I mentioned. Not everyone can be out there repairing roads and bridges. I don't like reality shows, so I hope it doesn't come to that!