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Is arts funding an "entitlement?"


GoPractice

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Do the arts deserve funding?

Without getting too deep into very complicated current events, public and private funding ( of the arts ) is good, right?

In the past week, I overheard the word, "Entitlement" attached to performance arts over a dozen times. The term was used in response to many arts groups asking for operational funds. From what I understand, the amounts are relatively small.

I currently take in zero dollars from any arts focused non- profit. It's been that way for at least ten years and being somewhat careful, I believe that to be true. My time "working" in that sector, is donated. Nope, have not paid Union Dues, for years. This is not a boast. I would like for this to be a legitimate, non- self interested question. There are no direct interests. There might be an indirect benefit, but I care less and less how operations are run. Besides, the graduating kids are far better technical players these days.

Cooking might be of more interest these days. I remember playing ( "serenading" ) in an Italian restaurant during college. Two hours of solo violin work is difficult. The pay was virtually nothing, but the eggplant was good. 

Medically, or scientifically, our lives - for many of us, anyway - is a bit on hold. Priorities should be set, but... I really need a road trip out to the desert.

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Good question.

I suppose if public arts funding goes to inclusive projects then it's not entitlement.

If it goes only to support projects for the "elite" of whatever arts group it happens to be...then yes. By definition it would be.

While I think arts funding is important for a community, I've seen/heard of enough funding going to projects of little/no interest - except for a select few - that I have become both very skeptical and disillusioned.

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I see "the arts" as pathways to our human "inner selves." Support for "the arts" makes them more widely available and when that exposure is available to young people as part of their overall educational experience it provides potential pathways to better lives and a better society.

In the community where I lived 30 to 60 years ago our community orchestra was one of the beneficiaries of the annual United Fund drive.

Perhaps I should add that we were a community orchestra composed of amateur musicians (at least, musicians whose incomes did not come from music - other than a few music teachers) and our small income from the UF and other donors went entirely to paying for our professional conductor who, over the years, came from other cities 100 or more miles away. I  moved away and left that orchestra about 30 years ago, but am glad to see that the conductor we hired (following auditions when I was president of the orchestra association) is still the conductor (and still making that weekly commute).

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The question is probably too political for this board. Some see everything as an entitlement, from cancer treatment for centenarians to gender reassignment for six-year olds, both of which are in principle state-funded in UK. Some, particularly in USA, assume we should do everything for ourselves. I appreciate state support of the arts in much of western Europe, especially the Germaninc countries, and hope it continues and even spreads. I enjoyed the Red Ken Livingstone time in London with many state-funded concerts.

On the other hand, those who use the language of "entitlement", even entitlement to basic income, may overlook that printing up more money to fund our needs for energy, COVID "stimmies", distant wars, and community arts, has proved inflationary, to the surprise of the experts, so paradoxically impoverishes those who can least afford it.

So yes, funding of the arts is a public good, much to be encouraged. However calling at an "entitlement" is an attempt to turn what they want to happen into a political or quasi-legal compulsion, which to me feels dishonest. And ultimtely self-destructive, because if it were accepted that artists are entitled funding, then some artists would argue about what counts, and people producing all sorts of cacophony which passes for music, and old urinals which pass for art, would say they are as entitled, if not more so, as those who have learned these crafts. If that thinking takes hold for a while during a left-leaning period, there will be a public backlash.

In short, I would like to see states and municipalities create wealth diligently, steward it carefully, and distribute it humanely, not forgetting the arts; whilst bearing in mind that there is nothing humane about burdening future generations--and perhaps no longer so far in the future--with the results of excessive debt and freely printed money to meet "entitlements".

15 hours ago, GoPractice said:

Besides, the graduating kids are far better technical players these days.

One probably needs to know what you do to see the relevance of this.

I have been wanting to start a thread on something related: a Two Set video drew attention to the high quality of the violinists on Fiverr, performing for very low fees. And it was not only in the pandemic time. I am not a fan of a lot of modern playing, but the fact is that these mostly young people can nail a lot of the technical feats required for virtuoso repetoire, and produce a decent sound by modern standards, and play with spirit and accuracy. The Two Set video, or a self-guided perusual of violinists on Fiverr, is somehow extremely impressive for the quality of playing, and depressive for the fact that such performers are driven to offer their skills for so little. Jacobson, "Lost Secrets of Master Musicians", who was at Curtis in the Galamian time, practically calls conservatories a scam for quietly failing to point out that the chances of a job are vanishingly small, and the chances of a non-orchestra job about as good as the chance being struck by lightening.

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I think it's all a bit "buyer beware" though.

Before entering any field of study a student needs to research job prospects upon graduation.

All institutes of higher learning have to function as businesses. They have to make money. They certainly aren't going say; "No! Don't get a performance degree...you'll never get a good job!"

And...jobs generally pay what the market will will bear. If there isn't a big market for classical musicians they shouldn't expect a high salary.

It's not "fair" but I also don't see a clear way to make it all fair either.

 

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3 hours ago, Rue said:

And...jobs generally pay what the market will will bear. If there isn't a big market for classical musicians they shouldn't expect a high salary.

I don't know what you consider a high salary, but we do fine.  

Of course, there's also the issue of who attends a music school in the first place...

But for me, the issue is paying for what we value in society.  The USA seems to have no problem throwing endless billions away on weapons.  It's hard to imagine what our country would look like if we spent on the arts what other civilized nations do.

My favorite statistic was that the government of France used to spend on one opera house more than the entire US National Endowment for the Arts.  Population France: 68 million, Population USA: 330 million

 

PS- I'll expand a bit on "we do fine."  Even the greatest among us tend to teach to make money.  It's always been this way.  Mozart taught.  Beethoven taught. Etc...  Even in uncertain economies, people want to pay for lessons for their children.  And with the current wave of boomer retirees, I've been teaching more lessons to adults than ever before.  My rate is $65/hr as a teacher.  In bigger cities, my friends are charging $90 or $100/hr.  We are highly valued by the market.

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12 hours ago, Stephen Fine said:

I don't know what you consider a high salary, but we do fine.

...

My favorite statistic was that the government of France used to spend on one opera house more than the entire US National Endowment for the Arts.  

On the question of state funding of arts, I expressed a view. But on the question of the number of excellent players with performance qualifications who don't make living performing, I only have a lot of half-formed questions which arose from looking at those excellent musicians on Fiverr. How should students on a performance rather than teaching track think about their investment? What should teachers and conservatories be saying to the young, hard-working students who rely on their advice? Is there a better way? In an age of streaming, should we think about most live music as an amateur pursuit where often performers end up paying rather than being paid? Or is there a different model? Here I have no answers.

I value the opera, and I usually go to Covent Garden when I am back in London, and it is usually excellent and always well-funded. Only went in Paris once, and it was also great (will never forget it, Netrebko in L'Elisir). Frankly the Met in NY though I have never been live, is at least on a par with both Paris and London, no doubt thanks to private donors.

Smaller towns in parts of Western Europe are ahead of UK, and far ahead of USA, in public funding of arts. But it does worry me that a few elite institutions are superbly well funded, and a percentage of that money is being poured into ridiculous salaries for star singers and conductors, when many fantastic musicians in classical and jazz can make little or nothing by performing. For any given society, the extent of this contrast may mirror the divide between rich and poor more generally?

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18 hours ago, Stephen Fine said:

....

PS- I'll expand a bit on "we do fine."  Even the greatest among us tend to teach to make money.  It's always been this way.  ...

My rate is $65/hr as a teacher.  In bigger cities, my friends are charging $90 or $100/hr.  We are highly valued by the market.

It still depends on the local market.

FWIW those rates are higher than the going rates here.

Our orchestra does not get paid a huge amount. They supplement by necessity.

So how are fees determined if not by the market?

If a teacher wants to charge $100 an hour but no one can afford to pay that...does the teacher not teach or do they charge less?

And...if there are "rich" parents that can, and will, pay $100...what about students who's parents can't? Is it then "tough luck"?

If so, that becomes another issue of entitlement.

In the real world there will always be rich and poor. An ideal of everyone having access to the same luxuries is nice but totally unrealistic.

But there's still a difference between accommodating as many as reasonably possible versus catering only to the wealthy.

...just sayin' :)

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21 hours ago, Rue said:

It still depends on the local market.

FWIW those rates are higher than the going rates here.

Our orchestra does not get paid a huge amount. They supplement by necessity.

So how are fees determined if not by the market?

If a teacher wants to charge $100 an hour but no one can afford to pay that...does the teacher not teach or do they charge less?

And...if there are "rich" parents that can, and will, pay $100...what about students who's parents can't? Is it then "tough luck"?

If so, that becomes another issue of entitlement.

In the real world there will always be rich and poor. An ideal of everyone having access to the same luxuries is nice but totally unrealistic.

But there's still a difference between accommodating as many as reasonably possible versus catering only to the wealthy.

...just sayin' :)

I already offer lessons at a discounted rate to those who can't pay.  If the US government wanted to continue giving people a child tax credit (tied, ideally, to viola lessons), more people could afford to buy viola lessons for their children.

On 5/27/2022 at 7:23 PM, Rue said:

Good question.

I suppose if public arts funding goes to inclusive projects then it's not entitlement.

If it goes only to support projects for the "elite" of whatever arts group it happens to be...then yes. By definition it would be.

While I think arts funding is important for a community, I've seen/heard of enough funding going to projects of little/no interest - except for a select few - that I have become both very skeptical and disillusioned.

Rue, how much research have you done into the topic of where arts funding goes?  I hope quite a bit for you to become skeptical and disillusioned.  But, I imagine that, in fact, you've been presented with a few cherry-picked cases to create your skepticism.  I hope you'll do a deeper dive on what Canada spends per capita on the arts, the artists it benefits, and the public who takes advantage.

Can't say I'm an expert on Canadian Arts Funding, but the website is informative: https://canadacouncil.ca/research/stats-and-stories

And, personally, I've had friends take advantage of Canadian public funds and prizes.  Sometimes, arts funding only benefits a few people, I'm part of a group whose mission is to bring music to rural locations without much access.  Shouldn't smaller communities have access to art too?  Or are we only caring about the efficiency of the market?

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Research? Not very much.  However, I've been involved in Fine Arts (one way or another) since I first started taking my Fine Arts classes way back when.  So, I hope, having experienced first-person discussion about funding, applications, etc. for the last 30 years 'entitles' (pun intended!) me to an opinion!   Hopefully a reasonably informed one.

I always thought the entire topic of 'funding' was a little hypocritical in and of itself. In an ideal world funding wouldn't be needed.  But, if it was, in an ideal world it would be fairly distributed.

We do not live in an ideal world.  

I've seen funding go to individuals who did not need it, who wasted it, in lieu of being given to deserving individuals who would have made the most of it.  Politics, nepotism, etc. all play a powerful, and often negative role.

So, watcha gonna do?  It's a conundrum.

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2 hours ago, Rue said:

Research? Not very much.  However, I've been involved in Fine Arts (one way or another) since I first started taking my Fine Arts classes way back when.  So, I hope, having experienced first-person discussion about funding, applications, etc. for the last 30 years 'entitles' (pun intended!) me to an opinion!   Hopefully a reasonably informed one.

I always thought the entire topic of 'funding' was a little hypocritical in and of itself. In an ideal world funding wouldn't be needed.  But, if it was, in an ideal world it would be fairly distributed.

We do not live in an ideal world.  

I've seen funding go to individuals who did not need it, who wasted it, in lieu of being given to deserving individuals who would have made the most of it.  Politics, nepotism, etc. all play a powerful, and often negative role.

So, watcha gonna do?  It's a conundrum.

I try not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good when thinking about government.

But, really we are talking apples and oranges here.  Canada funds the arts very well, so I'm sure there's a ton of misappropriated funds, corruption, etc...  Such is the way when big money is involved.

In the U.S., we are talking about a pittance.  The U.S. is... 9x larger than Canada by population? And Canada spends about 2x on the Arts Council what we spend on the NEA.

I'm curious... how rural is it where you are?  What is the arts scene like?  Community orchestra?  Theater?  Museums?  What's around in the Prairies?

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On 5/28/2022 at 7:25 AM, John_London said:

 ( ... )

One probably needs to know what you do to see the relevance of this.

I have been wanting to start a thread on something related: a Two Set video drew attention to the high quality of the violinists on Fiverr, performing for very low fees. And it was not only in the pandemic time. I am not a fan of a lot of modern playing, but the fact is that these mostly young people can nail a lot of the technical feats required for virtuoso repertoire, and produce a decent sound by modern standards, and play with spirit and accuracy. The Two Set video, or a self-guided perusal of violinists on Fiverr, is somehow extremely impressive for the quality of playing, and depressive for the fact that such performers are driven to offer their skills for so little. Jacobson, "Lost Secrets of Master Musicians", who was at Curtis in the Galamian time, practically calls conservatories a scam for quietly failing to point out that the chances of a job are vanishingly small, and the chances of a non-orchestra job about as good as the chance being struck by lightening.

Sorry, in need of time alone against nature. Grumpy... thank you for the responses. Need time off. Maybe in July?

*rant*

There are/ will be graduations and promotions throughout the months. I observe that despite the reported immense number of jobs out there, for those disciplined, not always talented individuals in the pursuit of work in the arts beyond school, I am a bit disheartened. Not just in the performance area, but in the visual and also in engineering.

I can not quantify the benefit of the arts. As a child Arts tended to be the norm, or more precisely, the adults that surrounded my parents tended towards skills that were elevated to levels of artistry. What a disappointment I turned out to be. Since skills were a given, the efforts made ( mine ) were a bit mediocre. 

I do work with skilled youngsters. Some very skilled. I do want them to find work in the areas that they are trained.

Even in my tech life, these kids are substantially more skilled at the keyboard end of work when they arrive.

Most of the young players recently encountered are nice, but lack finish. And that is expected. Polish, burnished characteristics takes time...

Younger kids sometimes ( often ) lack filters. I actually enjoy the feisty unapologetic types, but some ( management ) are troubled by it.

I want some of these kids to find jobs and get better. It's been said before, but there are some amazing performers waiting for other performers to die. Wind player positions are the most complicated, as string players fight for what they can get. It's a numbers game. There are so many fantastic wind players we do not hear. When was the last time one attended a piano recital?

My point is that there are many excellent, if not exceptional - no exaggeration, players/ artists out there that should be experienced. The product is there. Product of exceptional quality. How do we connect the product to those interested? The internet was a solution at one point, but the execution varies by successes.  

I had a girlfriend ( I did not deserve ) who was exceptional at nurturing and pointedly pointed out that I lacked, that, in some ( most ) of my instruction. As I attend graduating recitals, it is obvious that the kids had two years of performances stolen away from them. People need to be fed. Performers must have opportunities to perform. Both nurture.

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3 hours ago, Stephen Fine said:

I try not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good when thinking about government.

But, really we are talking apples and oranges here.  Canada funds the arts very well, so I'm sure there's a ton of misappropriated funds, corruption, etc...  Such is the way when big money is involved.

In the U.S., we are talking about a pittance.  The U.S. is... 9x larger than Canada by population? And Canada spends about 2x on the Arts Council what we spend on the NEA.

I'm curious... how rural is it where you are?  What is the arts scene like?  Community orchestra?  Theater?  Museums?  What's around in the Prairies?

We are a small city with agriculture being a primary industry.  We have access to a little bit of everything, but not a lot of anything.  We have an orchestra, community orchestra, string groups, and a surprising number of other musical ensembles that I have never heard of but seem to enjoy some popularity.  Advertising and awareness are an issue (and not just for me!). We have one main theatre, a couple of smaller ones, several museums (for local history primarily), one newer Art Gallery.  

Our arts-interested population is not large enough to support more than what we have.

So for example, while in a large European city, if you have a sudden yearning to visit the opera...you can probably find one to attend.  Here, you need to wait for one to show up...mostly there's at least one coming through a year.  Same with ballet.

Attendance at pop/country concerts and sporting events...is solid though!!!  Lots of those!

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"Entitlement" in the strictest sense is the right to something.

The way the word "entitlement" is used these days is to denote an unrealistic or undeserved sense of the right to something.  Don't blast my personal definition/opinion of the word.  I am just using personal observations and formulating some opinions here.  For example, college kids have a sense of entitlement to a six figure salary when they enter the work force. My spouse is a panel member for interviewing new accountants at her rather large firm.  Most newly minted college grads expect a six-figure salary. LOL

Arts...arts are a privilege, yes.  We certainly do not need to have arts.  

But when was the last time a non-profit art group demanded donations?  I personally do not know.  When was the last time any Symphony stated or conducted themselves in a manner that said "we deserve a million dollar grant?"

I think that artists, at least classical musicians, are the least demanding but most deserving artists around.  That is a biased opinion though.  My current group is a non-profit.  We are happy to break even each season.  I do not see "entitlement" in my group.

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20 hours ago, GoPractice said:

Sorry, in need of time alone against nature. Grumpy... thank you for the responses. Need time off. Maybe in July?

 

Young people have different skills. On the whole the exams we took in Maths or French were harder back in the 1970s--but far fewer took them. Many left school at 16.

However, your comments sound like a more generalized disatisfaction with the developing breakdown of Western society. There are not enough jobs to go round. The jobs which exist are not enough to live on. Young people who once would have taken blue collar jobs now go to university or conservatory, for steeply rising fees. Then what?

I grew up in a world where we had never heard of a billionaire. Neither could we imagine that a hard-working skilled carpenter in the London area would be paid too little to buy an adequate house and garden for his wife and children. I won't say the world was better. It was less nutty, less distorted, less focussed on funnelling wealth upwards.

Complex distortions in the money system (which started when Nixon divorced USD from gold in August 1971) have created very odd paradoxes, of which I see the lack of jobs for the too many skilled young musicians as just one manifestation. So it all seems to go beyond the world of stringed instruments. Though the price of Strads is another oddity...

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I grew up with the philosophy that one was entitled to have access to the basics. 

However,  past that, what level of access one reached was up to the individual. 

Therefore as far as arts education goes, basic information should be taught in achool.

Advanced education was up to the parents.

And that's why I never had private music lessons. My parents couldn't afford it.

Is it sad? Yes. Is it fair? It should be, but it isn't. Even giving scholarships to deserving kids is far from fair or equitable. In my experience such awards always went to the popular kids...

To rub salt in the wound...these kids never seemed to make the most of their advantage and eventually dissappeared from sight - yet many of the kids that struggled to achieve without any help - and who "made it" - did so pretty much entirely on their own.

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