In Support of Art?

Anyone who read last Friday’s blog knows that I love Western art. Mountains, mesas, cowboys on horses, cattle drives, rugged canyons with lakes or rivers in them. I love all of that. I’m not so big on fuzzy pictures that make you think you’re seeing double or modern art that doesn’t depict anything recognizable to me, but I realize that such things are matters of taste. There’s not necessarily any right or wrong involved. Enjoy the art that appeals to you.

Where I draw the line is with the idea that government (read taxpayers) needs to support the artists who draw, paint or sculpt pieces that don’t sell well enough to buy the artist’s groceries and pay the rent. It has become common practice for the federal government, through the National Endowment for the Arts, to underwrite all sorts of art and artists.

My own city does the same thing. Every time we pass a bond issue, some portion of the proceeds will be earmarked to “support the arts.” Why is this? Why should taxpayers subsidize artists whose art—or promotional abilities—leave them without enough income to get along on?

As I say this, I realize that I’m an artist also. I don’t paint pictures or sculpt statues in my art. I use words to create those pictures in the stories I write. Unfortunately, I’m not a good enough promoter to bring flocks of readers to buy my books, but is that the fault of taxpayers? Should they be penalized for my lagging book sales?

The very thought of that is ludicrous. I’m in daily contact with dozens of writers through social media, and very few of them sell enough books to make a living, but that’s okay. We work day jobs or live on retirement resources or whatever we need to do while we ply our art. What justification could there possibly be for saddling taxpayers with the burden of supporting us?

Yet we think nothing of spending tax money to support people who can’t sell enough paintings or statuary to support themselves. We spend tax money to support local symphony orchestras which can’t raise enough revenue from ticket sales to allow their members to make a living. Why do these people have license to reach into your pocket for the money they can’t make with their art?

If you sell enough books to make a living, more power to you. But if you don’t, should big brother come along with money taken from taxpayers’ pockets and use it to support your writing? Why shouldn’t our writing—and painting and music—be supported by the people who enjoy reading or viewing or hearing it?

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We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.

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For more information about David N. Walker, click the “About” tab above.

For more information about his books, click on “Books” above.

Contact him at dnwalkertx (at) gmail (dot) com or tweet him at @davidnwalkertx.

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About David N. Walker

David N. Walker is a Christian husband, father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years in the health insurance industry, during which time he traveled much of the United States. He started writing about 20 years ago and has been a member and leader in several writers' groups. Christianity 101: The Simplified Christian Life, the devotional Heaven Sent and the novella series, Fancy, are now available in paperback and in Kindle and Nook formats, as well as through Smashwords and Kobo. See information about both of these by clicking "Books" above.
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12 Responses to In Support of Art?

  1. I’m totally with you here. As lovely as it would be if all artists could make a living wage with their art, it’s not statistically realistic, and artists should know that going in. If my books never sell it will be awful and frustrating, but in no logical world would I ever expect taxpayers to hand me a check that basically says, “Hey, sorry we don’t care about your books enough for you to live off them, but here’s some free cash.” That would be like handing out free cash to athletes who didn’t play well enough to get into the playoffs/finals/whatever. It makes no sense at all.

    I’m all for supporting the arts, and I’d like to see more funding going into things like encouraging kids to give art a try, but I don’t believe that any professional of any kind deserves to be given free money because their chosen field isn’t working out. Just my opinion, of course. 🙂

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  2. I agree one hundred percent, Dave. If you’re not making a living doing what you’re doing, then you need to do something else or something along with your “art.” I believe that authors are artists, yet we are never classified in with painters, sculptors or dancers. Why is that?

    I understand supporting the arts for art programs aimed at helping aspiring artists hone their crafts, or for school-aged kids, but not to pay for some unemployed guy to keep making crappy art. That is wrong.

    And I too am a huge lover of western art. When my husband and I met, he had cowboy art (Tim Cox, etc.) and I had southwestern art so we blended nicely when we married and combined our houses. In our home cowboys and Indians get along just fine.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

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  3. Barb Estinson says:

    As I am sure you know, David, I fully agree with Karlene. Supporting the arts includes teaching music, art, drama, and writing in schools. It would be so sad if kids did not have these learning opportunities along with math, science, history, etc. Though you don’t enjoy the museums (other than the cowgirl and western ones) in Fort Worth, I think that they and the symphonies, opera, and plays are part of what makes Fort Worth such a good city. Though I know our viewpoints are different, I wanted to share mine.

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    • Thanks, Sis. I have no objection to teaching arts in school, any more than I do teaching math or history. But I still believe museums, operas, etc., should be supported either by those who attend or by donors who FREELY GIVE money to support them.

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  4. Karlene says:

    David, when they support “the arts” are they supporting the “artists”? Or are they supporting “the” arts. I am in full support of STEM education. However, I am more in support of STEAM.. keeping the arts in with science, technology, engineering and math. Creativity is essential in society and growing healthy children. We solve the most complex problems creatively because they are not black and white. When we support “the arts”, “Arts” does not mean giving artists money to live. The welfare system does that. “The Arts” is about keeping the theaters, museums and concert halls open. Providing opportunities for our children to be able to walk into a museum, listen to a concert or see a play. So, I have to say… for all the waste coming out of the government, this is my absolute favorite. If you want to complain about something…. a better option is the money spent paying farmers to destroy crops or not farm their property. We do have starving people in the world. But I say…keep the arts!

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    • Thanks for your opinion, Karlene, but I still say if there is demand for symphonies, museums, etc., people will pay to enjoy them. If the demand isn’t there, people obviously don’t value them.

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      • Karlene says:

        We do pay to enjoy them, more times than not. And look at the roads being ripped up and repaved that could be left as is. The moral of this story is you’re on this earth for a very short time, I say go enjoy some music and art while you’re here. Also… go see the movie Monuments Men. And the tell me if this is something you think our government should have been involved in to save the artwork?

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  5. Sharon Walker says:

    This most recent blog by my husband may especially anger some of my artist friends. Date: Fri, 8 Aug 2014 10:02:14 +0000 To: shaywalk@hotmail.com

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  6. Sharon K. Walker says:

    At the risk of possibly angering some of my artist friends, I basically side with you. Governments are big enough and already make too many demands on the taxpayer . I do think, however, that the beauty and interest that art contributes to our culture is important.

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