There is a paradox of government-funded arts in the West.  We in the West don’t believe we should encourage failure.  Too often art reveals where we don’t succeed.  Why would government support those that don’t agree with the ideology of success?

Ostensibly, government supports “free markets,” or the cult of the entrepreneur, by allowing the imaginative cutthroats to cut throats imaginatively, resulting in the financial debacle we observe today.  Americans revere the man that makes money, seeing the vibrant corporation as a symbol of independence, liberty and freedom.

Then there are the artists.  The Western artist also depicts the American obsession with independence, liberty and freedom.  Only the artist through his and her very life and work depicts the repercussion of a desire to integrate the artistic default experience of feeling-part-of-something-larger-than-the-self with the American experience of separation, monetary stratification, independence, liberty and freedom.  The Western artist is presented with a paradox.  How does he or she manifest interconnection, or connection to that which transcends normal experience, in a society that deifies the alone?

Art often calls attention to this paradox, what might be also expressed as a cultural incongruity.  The Left does not see a problem with paying people to share their insights on those struggles that make up our lives.  The Right generally is against funding perspectives that don’t share in the myth of our entrepreneurial independence.

Of the many ways available to describe the transformation that is underway, the phrases “return of the commons” and “media is the message” summarize where we are headed.  We are becoming horizontal at breakneck speed as national and international consciousness refocuses on safety nets, government-supported programs and job creation.  High degrees of stratification are about to flatten as the zeitgeist turns toward punishing the capitalist mythology that the wealthy represent, those that have achieved our dream.  Our dreams are changing.  We are growing to revere relationship.  The commons emphasizes the utilization of our connections to engender security.  The wealthy are on the brink of being demonized.  Watch how the wealthy respond when the government penalizes wealth.  Observe the media response.  The commons is coming back with a vengeance.

The media that is the message for our time is the many-to-many new technologies such as the net and cell phone communications.  Transparency, diversity and horizontal communication are integral to this new wave in interaction.  How can the government use these new technologies as we transition to a “commons” frame of reference so that artists can be employed and supported?

Former barriers to artist employment are being shattered by the destruction of the entrepreneurial paradigm.  Artists will no longer be pariahs suggesting where our hypocrisies are buried.  We can again turn to those who specialize in providing insight into our predicament.  The Internet can enhance and encourage our turning in our artists’ direction.

Right now art is proliferating across the web at an astonishing rate and is being produced by “amateurs,” young people paying their bills in other ways.  Consider how the government can best reward those whose work is receiving acclaim in the form of website hits and visitor duration.  Don’t let the government decide who receives a basic wage to produce art full time.  Let traffic make that decision.  By government rewarding those that have gathered the respect of their net peers, art as a profession exponentially increases and others are encouraged to participate, thus fertilizing a new online institution and the world economy.

Consider that there are fewer than 100 comic strip and panel artists in this country making a living selling work to be reproduced in print.  If the government funded this miniscule profession to make it possible for 1,000 comic artists to receive a basic living by providing a penny for every visitor to their site, the comic arts would proliferate across the planet with hundreds of millions of people profiting from the artwork and insights that would result.

What if government rewarded dancers by paying dance troupes wages based on video viewings?  Those dance videos with the widest audiences could receive fees based upon traffic hits and duration.  Government does not decide who gets paid.  Government only creates the opportunities for distance to become no barrier to aesthetics, with people anywhere voting their approval by their arrival upon a site.  Then the artist is rewarded with a government microcommission.

Music, comedy and storytelling become three areas easily reimbursed.  Government allots funds for distribution.  Institutions are created.  Not only the artists, but society, are rewarded.

The paradox of art in the West is being resolved by a society that is discovering its humanity.  As the message bearers of our humanity again become respected, government can get into the business of rewarding that respect and making possible the distribution of their work.

There is no barrier to government-funded art when it again becomes possible to respect government as an institution that seeks to make lives better.


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