WHAT IS THE ART WORLD’Snstate in America today? The answerndepends on whom you talk to and whatnthey do. Some of the answers I’venheard are: rich, poor, over- and underfunded,nneglected, status-laden, censored,nsilly, profound, personal, public,npatriotic, obscene, sacrilegious, attacked,nelitist, sexist, postmodern, pluralistic,nand so on. And all are true.nAnything and everything is sold in thenAmerican art industry.nAs an artist, designer, and educatornI’ve watched the art establishmentngrow, prosper, and become politicizednover the last quarter century. Thisngrowth parallels the expansion of thenNational Endowment for the Arts andnthe various state art councils that nownexist not only in every state but also innAmerican Samoa, the District of Columbia,nGuam, the Northern Mariana,nand the Virgin Islands. Then there arenthe city-sponsored cultural centers andnregional and private arts groups thatn”support the arts.” What emerges is anvast and powerful culture machine employingnthousands of well-paid art bureaucratsnwho are devoted to pointingnout cultural avenues to the rest of usnwho presumably cannot find our ownnway.nNowhere does this art bureaucracynshow the relationship of art and politicsnbetter than at the state level. Accordingnto the Illinois Arts Council’s 1989nannual report, the Lyric Opera ofnChicago received $25,875, and thenopera’s Center for American Artistsnreceived $95,220 “for general operatingnsupport.” However worthy andnfruitful the goals of the Lyric Operanmay be, one wonders why this prestigiousninstitution representing Chicago’snmost socially prominent families andncorporations needs over one hundrednthousand dollars from the taxpayers,nmost of whom will never go to thenopera. This pales, however, next to then$302,250 that the California ArtsnCouncil gave in 1989 to the SannFrancisco Opera, and the $305,000nthat went for the San Francisco Symphony.nThe exclusivity of these groupsnraises questions about funding specialninterest constituencies that have a significantnprivate sector funding base.nThis commodification of the artnworld has created a lot of very well-todonartists and dealers, and new generationsnof young artists now aspire to thenfame and riches of the art establishmentnwith a zeal more reminiscent ofnavaricious actors hustling Hollywoodnthan serious practitioners of what cannbe solitary and lonely crafts. The NEAnstamp of approval has become a covetednstatus symbol; references to it arencommonly made on artist, gallery, andninstitutional resumes; and jobs at thenNEA and the various state art agenciesnhave become the patronage turf of thenprivileged few and the politically wellconnected.nAt between forty and fiftynthousand dollars a year, a regionalnrepresentative for the NEA may worknout of his home and have a job that hasnto be considered one of the patronagenplums of the art bureaucracy.nFounded shortly after the NEA, thenIllinois Arts Council, now 25, is one ofnthe oldest state art councils. Its presentnchairman, Shiriey R. Madigan, wasnappointed by Governor James Thompson,nand she is the wife of IllinoisnSpeaker of the House Michael Madigan.nActing Executive Director RhodanA. Pierce makes over $57,000 a year,nand in the I AC annual report for 1989nshe states, “the arts must remain ansignificant priority on the governmentnagenda,” and that “the Council firmlynbelieves that no other means of supportncan fully meet the needs of a growingartisticnconstituency.” This is exactlynthe kind of airy grandiosity that sonmany of the art bureaucrats project tonjustify patronage of all kinds of groupsnthat become ever more dependentnupon the state for their existence.nThe lAC is divided into fundingnareas by state senate and legislativendistricts. Chicago is by far the fundingnepicenter, but all over the state peoplenlobby for the state’s art largesse. ThenVisual Arts Advisory Panel for the lACneven seats members who are requestingngrants themselves. When a panelnmember’s application comes up fornreview that person is said to leave thenroom, and with this brief and fleetingnnod in the general direction of ethics itnseems clear that the establishment thatnpromotes art for all is also adept atnfeeding itself at the taxpayer’s expense.nThere is perhaps no better illustrationnof the nature of arts bureaucracynin government than California. In thenearly years of the California ArtsnCouncil, actor Peter Coyote and othersncalled for the CAC to pursue thisnlong-range goal: “To ultimately have ansociety so deeply dyed with art, craft,nand style as to render an Arts Councilnunnecessary.” This goal was quicklynbranded as naive and unrealistic andnwas then dropped by a council thatnopted instead for self-preservation.nSince its founding in 1976 the CAC’snannual budget has increased from justnunder two million dollars to a proposedntwenty million dollars for 1990.nIn a free and democratic republicnthe human spirit should defy evenngood-intentioned regimentation, andntherefore the creative establishment ofnthis country should form a new agendanthat rejects the materialism that hasnreduced the arts in this country to onenmore form of pop entertainment. Artistsnshould make their own decisionsnabout their lives and careers, free ofngovernment intervention, and neighborhoods,ntowns, cities, and statesnshould nurture their own creative environments,nhowever banal or elevatednthey choose to make them.nI recently suggested to one governmentnart manager that the chairman ofnthe NEA be elevated to cabinet-levelnstatus with the title of Secretary of thenArts and Humanities. I argued that thisnwould enable the President to fullyndevelop an art policy that reflected thenbest interests of the United States.nSomehow my sarcasm was missed, andnI was both amused and appalled tonhear this reply: “What a wonderfulnidea. What a simply wonderful idea!”n— Stanley D. EdwardsnMOVING?nX-nLET US KNOW BEFORE YOU GO!nTo assure uninterrupted delivery ofnChronicles, please notify us in advance.nSend change of address onnthis form with the mailing label fromnyour latest issue of Chronicles to:nSubscription Department, Chronicles,nP.O. Box 800, Mount Morris, Illinoisn61054.nNamenAddress .nCitynnnState _Zip_nJANUARY 1991/9n