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Why art/culture subsidy cuts could be A Good Thing part I

October 23, 2010

Holland has elected a right leaning government. To make up the huge financial deficit, they are proposing drastic cuts to art/culture budgets. The main Radio Music Center (Muziekcentrum van de Omroep (MCO)) would be eliminated. And would take with it, the Radio Choir, The Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, and the Metropolitan Orchestra.  All these major bodies of music are responsible for countless performances live and on TV and Radio throughout Holland.

Next, 1/4 of the libraries would be closed- Holland has 1100 public libraries and 4 million members.  The libraries to be closed down would be the small village and town ones. Nearly half of the library members are school kids. So in effect, this act would cut deeply into the education of the next generations.

The present government has called art a ‘leftist hobby’. And this is what I want to address. Because this idea is not new and has been lurking under the surface for decades.  Now, because a populist party has gotten a lot of votes and is represented in the government, these things are being said openly.

As an artist, passionately devoted to art as a necessary transformative and healing force in the society, I want to say that nevertheless, I can sympathise with some of these views.

The arts have been corrupted by huge egotism and excesses by certain artists. They have lost touch with their purpose and have become associated with the intellectual elite. They have, instead of remaining visionary and commentating on the society, been completely absorbed into the values of the day, which are purely and exclusively commercial.

They have become distant from everyday life and from normal people.  Because the arts, at their core deal with the bigger mysteries of life, they can’t be measured or their effects proven, and this society undervalues anything that it can’t quantify.

These issues are so deep and all encompassing that no argument about the worth of art can progress without touching on core issues involving the meaning and value of human life.  So you quickly come into the no man’s land of spiritual principles and philosophical questions. And sadly, you lose most people at that point.

This issue of cut art subsidies is nothing less than the issue of how we give meaning and value to our lives. So it can’t, as has been the case for probably the last 70 years,  be tackled at the symptom level.

Continued in part II below.

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