We’ll start doing some reading in a few weeks that addresses some of the complexity in the United States with regards to arts funding, but can’t hurt to begin to draw your attention now to the big issues.
Historically, in the U.S., the burden of arts funding has been split between audience members at the gate and charitable giving…with government subsidies picking up the slack. There is a more vigorous tradition in Canada, Europe, Australia and elsewhere of of larger government funding, although that is currently under real pressure because of the economy.
The issue is not simply one of conservative/liberal splits around the question of “big government.” Many folks, across the political spectrum, have embraced our tradition of doing things because of the autonomy it has seemingly granted artists and institutions.
But in a poor economy, private giving dries up quickly. . . and, as we saw the other day, with arts participation down, institutions can’t rely on the gate for basic operating budget.
So the scenarios below are very common:
Keep in mind that these are not small, marginal operations: We’re talking about major cultural organizations who employ hundreds, and, in the case of the Philadelphia, you’re talking a hundreds year old center of artistic practice.