Public Subsidies for Art, Public Art, Censorship of Art



2.      Public subsidies for art as “special interest” funding?

         a.      Some see public funding for arts (NEA, GSA's AIA program) as support for special interests

         b.      $ for a particular small groups concerns rather than funding for broader public interest

3.      Problematic defenses of public funding for art

         a.      Providing pleasure?

                   i.       Defense won't work

                   ii.      Giving people pleasure never a proper function of government

                   iii.     Also much great art is difficult and offensive, not pleasurable

                   iv.     Pleasure defense suggests that public subsidized art should be pleasing and uncontroversial

         b.      Providing entertainment?

                   i.       "We don't support bowling or other forms of public entertainment, why support arts?"

                   ii.      Faulty assumption that the arts are "entertainment"

4.      Art enriches human lives and betters society

                   i.       Proponents of public subsidies for art must show how art enriches lives of those who experience it and how society is better off with art

5.      Other reasons for public subsidies

         a.      W/o public subsidy, art would not disappear, but would be less widely available

         b.      Much art isn't and can't be self-supporting

         c.      Should not leave art production to the free market

         d.      Grants give artists freedom to produce non-commercial art

                   i.       Such art is more challenging and original compared to commercial art which is the lowest common denominator of art



6.      PUBLIC ART

         a.      Public subsidized art commissioned to be placed in public sites

         b.      Often this art defines great cities

7.      Public art is an especially controversial kind of public subsidy of art

         a.      Why?

         b.      Best artists who likely to be commissioned may not be understood or liked by public who view the art

                   i.       Public has little understanding or taste for best art

         c.      Putting art in public places forces it on citizens in a way in which other public subsidies of art do not

                   i.       Not just forcing people to pay for art they may not like

                   ii.      But forcing them to view it as well

         d.      Need especially stringent guidelines for this sort of public subsidy

8.      We might be willing to fund some art that we wouldn't want to fund as public art

         a.      Movies that should not be public (children should not see)

9.      Is public art a failure if it is widely disliked by community in which it exists?

         a.      Yes if the goal of public art is to satisfy public taste.

         b.      If being disliked constitutes a failure, this is not necessarily an artistic or aesthetic one as public may have bad taste

10.    Goal of public art?

         a.      Should the goal of public art be to satisfy public taste or should public art be taken as an opportunity to educate and shape public taste?

         b.      Work can be responsive to the public by making demands on it and this is at least as responsive as a work that is to the public's liking



12.    What is censorship?

         a.      Clear cases of censorship?

         b.      Was removal of TA censorship? (Horowitz says yes.)

         c.      Was NY city Mayor’s attempt to shut down the Brooklyn museum censorship?

13.    Is censorship always unacceptable?

         a.      View difficult to defend:

                   i.       Shouting obscenities using a loudspeaker, billboards depicting sexual practices, and so on

                   ii.      Doesn’t the public/government have a right to censor art that it pays for and puts on its property?

14.    Is it plausible to be in favor of public funding of all art, no matter how controversial?

         a.      Mapplethorpe’s homo-erotic art

15.    Should government (e.g., NEA) give art grants without political considerations or political appointees evaluating their appropriateness?

         a.      NEA civil servants turning down some grants that had been approved by panels of outside experts (artists in the field)

Study Questions


1.      What is censorship? Is it ever permissible to censor art? Why or why not?

2.      Should there be public subsidies for art? Why or why not? Make sure you consider strong reasons on each side of this debate.

3.      Why is public art a more controversial type of publicly supported art that are other types of publicly subsidized art?