"And the beat goes on................."
The stop gap measure of mostly meaningless cuts - as Congress once again clumsily tries to at least pretend it is responsibly dealing with the budget - as you all now know, included elimination of the some $40 million in the Department of Education budget ostensibly to support arts education, What is really outrageous about this isn't its elimination, but that the total America deems appropriate to spend on arts education in the first place is such a paltry twelve to thirteen cents per citizen. Equally outrageous is our lack of outrage leading up to what was surely the most expected and least surprising move post the election.
How is it, after all this time, that we are still so easily dismissed as unimportant, irrelevant, and meaningless; as unnecessary, a luxury and a frill? How is it that after all this time this society, while it values celebrity, simply does NOT value artistry or artists? How is it that after all this time, we who toil in the management of the nonprofit arts organizations remain thought of as people who sit around all day long drinking fancy Starbuck's concoctions while singing "Kumbaya" to each other - in support of lazy people with no real jobs and who want to rub peanut butter on themselves then either roll around naked on a canvas or dance for awhile and call it "art". How is it that our "brand" suffers such? How is it that a MIS-perception of the arts and those who people its organizations dominates the discourse?
There is a specialty within the public relations industry that focuses on what is called "Perception Management". It's genesis comes from the Pentagon and it is often involved in the manufacture of "truth" to manipulate the public perception of various issues. Some observers believe the entire WMD "truth" that allowed for the Iraq war was an exercise in Perception Management. It is also a legitimate and highly specialized sub-sector of public relations.
We need to do some real perception management (not the wholesale invention of "truth" to serve our needs, but the change in public perception away from the notion that we are, at best, an expendable luxury. Those key opponents who have found it philosophically "convenient" and "expedient" to target us (as much as a proven fund raising device and tool to rally their anti-government troops, as any misguided real belief about our place and value), and who find it so easy to be on the "anti arts bandwagon", are able to do so because they have successfully managed the perception of our value as almost meaningless (whether intentionally by design, or fortuitously accidentally). They have pigeon holed us as incompetent, unrealistic "dreamers" who aren't involved in "real" business, that art isn't core, and thus it is easy to patronize us as naive, unworthy and expendable (and that last designation is the most dangerous to us).
Somehow we have simply got to figure out a way to address these reckless, persistent mis-truths about us, and somehow we have got to get incensed and outraged that lies about us continue to pass for gospel. We are far too timid and compliant and that's part of why we are so easily taken advantage of. Campaigns that tout our value indirectly address the mis-perception - but for the most part don't really counter it. We need to attack the mis-perception itself - head on.
Have a good week.