Art Imitates Pork? Where Obama and McCain Stand on Funding

I think we all know by now where the presidential candidates stand on things like taxes and the war in Iraq, but have you dared to wonder what kind of funding they have in mind for the arts? Despite the U.S. being in a dilly of a pickle, I don’t want to see the National Endowement for the Arts cease to exist.
This eye-opening article  in The L.A. Times gets to the bottom of where the candidates stand on funding the arts. Although the new wave of crafting is a grass roots movement not widely supported by outside funding, sustained interest from the public correlates to the level of importance placed on arts culture.

Obama’s arts initiative (click here to read it) includes emphasis on arts education, and even addresses the issue of health care for artists, which I know is so important to those of you trying to find a way to make what you love for a living. McCain has track record of voting to cut funding for the arts, even in prosperous times, and there is nothing about arts policy on his website.

Have you read the article yet? Please do, because I’m about to all go op-ed on you.

How can we expect the next generation to place value on creative expression and craftsmanship when they are getting little to no art education in school? Over-exposure to commercialism and dwindling interest in homegrown art and culture within communities is frightening. This may not be as apparent in urban areas, but as always, I have the perspective of someone mere miles outside a city, and no plans to retreat into a skyscraper of artists lofts.

I have been teaching art classes for kids in my town for four years now to help supplement the absence of them in our grade schools. At least the kids that show interest, with the support of their parents, can learn some building blocks of art: drawing, color theory, and sculpture. Most importantly, I emphasize their individual responsibility to hone their skills. In the first class, we make 3-ring binder sketchbook, and for the duration of the program, they get “free refills” of paper if they fill it up with drawings at home. They also get “real” artist’s drawing pencils, and the kneaded erasers are always a big hit too.  I try to keep it affordable…$75 for six weeks of classes with all-inclusive materials, and in the end, that barely covers costs. My point is that being in this position, I feel like I’m holding the last thread of aspiring young artists in my community. Many enthusiastic ones take the course twice.  That thread is slipping. Not one student signed up for the fall session.

So, you betcha this subject is important to me. Society continues sucking at the teet of Wall Street; buying the cheapest, trendiest, mass-produced goods from places like Walmart. This is our culture now. Let’s have as much crap as possible, and who gives hoot where the inspiration for it came from, or what combination of hands and machines created it? Sorry folks, if you own a Thomas Kinkade painting, that doesn’t quite make up for it. So many aspiring artists are directed into commercial situations where their purpose is dictated by money instead of expression, and the middle class has long been ostracized from art.

That’s neither here nor there. I think we are in the midst watching these attitudes melt into the past. Indie craft offers a timely alternative of functional art that is affordable, accessible, and often eco-friendly. Yet, the overall future of art is blurry. You can clarify it with your vote.

Photo credit: hyperbolic pants on Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Written by Autumn Wiggins

This 2008 interview pretty much sums it up:

1. How would you describe yourself?
An oddly situated performer of thought experiments

2. Do you have any anecdotes about your work (how you got started, frustrating moments, or funny stories)?
At this year's Maker Faire in San Mateo, I gave a presentation on how the trend of green crafting can ultimately address the problem of consumption and waste. Dale Dougherty,the publisher of Make and Craft, later had a gift delivered to me, a staple bound book of poetry: Music Like Dirt by Frank Bidart. This is the last thing one would expect to take home from an event so focused on renegade technology. To my surprise, it was an existential reflection on the human need to make things that I now find myself going back to whenever I need some inspiration to look beyond the materials and processes of crafting.

3. What kinds of things do you do for fun?
In my spare time I enjoy amateur astronomy, outdoor adventures, collecting domain names, and hanging out at coffee shops.

4. What interesting projects are you working on right now?
I'm working to organize community involvement in upcycling, and have a few top-secret website projects up my sleeves!

5. Where do you live? Kids, pets, spouse, occupation?
O'Fallon, IL, a suburb (and I mean a totally typical suburb) of St. Louis, MO. Rather than moving to the more culture friendly urban environment, I am staying put and annoying the heck out of Wal-Mart by throwing a massive indie craft show(Strange Folk) in their backyard. I have a husband, Doug, and two sons: a 7 year old mad scientist named Jack, and 6 year old Max, who we think is an aspiring tattoo artist since he's so fond of drawing all over himself with markers. To pay the bills, I do freelance writing, mural painting, and website design, sell my handmade crafts, teach art classes for kids, and work part -time at a local coffee shop.

6. What new idea (in or outside of your field) has excited you most recently?
The concept known as "Cradle-to-Cradle" is a blueprint for sustainability that states everything we manufacture should be either biodegrable, infinitely recyclable, or intended to be upcycled. This is the basis for many of my ideas of how the crafting community can be more widely involved in solving the environmental crisis.

7. What is your favorite food/color/tool?
granola/green/sewing machine!


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