Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

USA - a vibrant culture, open to minorities, better funded than in France

by Jerome a Paris Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 09:56:21 AM EST

Frédéric Martel, who was cultural attaché at the French Embassy in Washington between 2001 and 2005, has just written a book, De la culture en Amérique (On culture in the USA) which is talked about a lot over here, and which paints a very positive picture of the sector.

Below, I am translating extracts from an interview that he gave to, ironically, L'hedbo, the magazine of the French socialist party, where he explains the content of his book.

USA : une culture vivante, ouverte aux minorités

Aux États-Unis, contrairement aux idées reçues, la culture n’est ni sous-financée, ni sous-valorisée. C’est la thèse de Frédéric Martel qui propose une vision nuancée du système américain, dont certains aspects pourraient inspirer les politiques françaises.

USA: a vibrant culture, open to minorities.

In the USA, despite what many believe [in France], culture is neither undervalued nor underfinanced. This is what Frédéric Martel explains in his book, where he provides a thoughtful description of the US system, which could insipre French politicians in many ways


Quelles sont les caractéristiques de ce système ?

Aux États-Unis, contrairement à la France, la culture n’est pas centralisée. Il n’y a pas de financement global, mais de multiples financements publics et privés, par le biais de la défiscalisation des dons. À l’arrivée, cela représente autant d’argent public par habitant qu’en France et beaucoup plus d’argent privé. Contrairement à ce que l’on pourrait penser, la culture américaine n’est donc pas sous-financée. En plus, cette organisation, très décentralisée, est très vivante, ouverte sur les quartiers et les minorités. En France, les cultures de banlieues sont totalement oubliées par le ministère, à part quelques coups médiatiques (...) Aux États-Unis, les cultures noires ou latinos sont beaucoup plus valorisées.

How would you describe the system?

In the USA, as opposed to what we see in France, culture is not centralised. There is not one single source of financing, but multiple of both private and public sources, via tax deductions on donations. It ends up that there is as much public money per person as in France, and a lot more of private money. Contrary to what one might think, US culture is not under-financed. And in addition, the highly decentralised organisation makes it very vibrant, and open to all communities and neighborhoods. In France, the banlieue culture is completely ignored by tre ministry, apart form a few PR stunts. (...) In the US, African-American and Latino culture are much better supported.

en France, ce secteur doit rester largement une affaire publique. Mais publique ne signifie pas pour autant centralisée, homogène et sous tutelle, comme c’est le cas aujourd’hui. Il faut renforcer la place des universités (elles ont un rôle central aux États-Unis), valoriser les points de vue des minorités, accentuer la décentralisation : sur tous ces aspects, le système américain est très performant. Culture should remain publicly-funded in France. But public funding does not necessarily mean centralised, homogenous or publicly-supervised, as it is today. We need to give a bigger role to universities, as in the USA, give more space and recognition to minority culture, increase decentralisation: on all these issues, the US system performs extremely well.
C’est un pays dont on ne sait finalement presque rien en matière de politique culturelle. Par exemple, les États-Unis ont proportionnellement deux fois plus d’artistes que la France. Notre problème n’est donc pas d’avoir trop d’artistes, ni trop d’intermittents du spectacle : c’est de ne pas en avoir assez et de ne pas avoir assez d’opportunités de travail ! Il faut se méfier des idées reçues sur le système américain et parfois savoir s’en inspirerWe are completely ignorant about the cultural policies of the country. For instance, the USA has twice as many artists as France, proportionally. Our problem in France is thus not that we have too many artists, or too many part time workers in the show business, it's that we don't have enough, and not enough opportunities for them to work! We need to get rid of our biases and learn what works elsewhere to use it.

Display:
Can anyone from the States tell us what public funding for culture and the arts there is, and how it works?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 11:06:47 AM EST
I'm not "from the States", but hey...

Off the top of my head, I can think of the National Endowment for the Arts:

The National Endowment for the Arts is a United States federally funded program that offers support and funding for projects that exhibit artistic excellence. It was created by the U.S. Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. Its chairman is poet Dana Gioia and has its offices in the Old Post Office in Washington, D.C.

The NEA mission is "to enrich our Nation and its diverse cultural heritage by supporting works of artistic excellence, advancing learning in the arts, and strengthening the arts in communities throughout the country."

Between 1965 and 2003, the agency has made more than 119,000 grants. Congress granted the NEA annual funding between $160 and $180 million from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. However, in 1996, Congress slashed NEA funding to $99.5 million (see Chronology of Federal Support to the NEA) as a result of increasing pressure from conservative groups such as the American Family Association, who have criticized the agency for using tax dollars to fund highly controversial artists such as Robert Clark Young, Andres Serrano, Robert Mapplethorpe, and the so-called "NEA Four." Since 1996, the NEA has rebounded somewhat with a 2004 budget of $121 million.



Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 11:18:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Some states also have their own versions of the NEA. Here in my state, for example, the state-run New York Council on the Arts has a budget of about $40 million, not an insignificant amount when you consider how little the entire U.S., with 15 times the population of New York, spends!
by Matt in NYC on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 05:41:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is not an easy question to answer, because even the public funding is decentralized.  Migeru's example above shows one source of funding support from the Federal level.  You may remember the controversy in New York over a painting of the Holy Virgin Mary.  Guliani found the show to be anti-Catholic, and sued since the Brooklyn Museum receives funding from the City of New York.  
Back in 1999, a controversial art exhibit called "Sensation" arrived at the Brooklyn Museum of Arts. It didn't take long for the show to receive tons of criticism from both the public and the mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani. Many, including the mayor, were outraged at pieces that used elephant feces and dead farm animals to portray the artists' disgust for the Christian religion.

Holy Virgin Mary drew the most attention from onlookers. The painting is a depiction of the Virgin Mary as a black woman and is splattered with elephant dung. Mayor Giuliani called the art exhibit "anti-Catholic," and because the Brooklyn Museum of Art receives funding each year from the city of New York, the mayor took the museum to court to decide if the city should have to continue with such financial support.

In the end, the Brooklyn Museum of Art won and the city does still contribute to the museum's operating fund.

Sort of two points here.  First public funding comes from all levels of government--Federal, State, city,,,,probably County somewhere.  Very decentralized.  Second, when it is publicly funded, the funding can come under attack if it is perceived to be biased against one group of people, or biased toward supporting another group.  Giliani lost in this case.  But where the legal case is stronger, and some controls come on public funding, private "charity" is often available to keep the programs going.

by wchurchill on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 11:47:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Also, the article seems to be counting tax breaks on private giving as 'public funding'.

IOW, a substantial chunk of the Federal "funding", under this definition, is subsidizing the act of corporations providing funding to the arts to improve their public image.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 11:53:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have mixed views on corporate giving.  On the one hand, most of us ask corporations to be "good corporate citizens".  So in some cities there is really significant pressure to give to the United Way, and to be involved in some non-profit boards and support with donations.  This is very true in Chicago.  And imho there is no question that it has really helped the community.  so i guess in that sense it is good, and needed, and business should support the communities they are in.

but beyond that I'm troubled.  Management makes the decisions on these gifts.  But management doesn't own the company, the shareholders do.  Wouldn't it be better for management to pay out those funds, and more, as dividends, and let the shareholders decide how they spend their own money?  beyond supporting the corporation's community, why do I want the CEO picking some charity he likes, and spend my % of those dollars on his charity--I have my own ideas where I'd like my money to go.

by wchurchill on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 01:11:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And not only shareholders ... what about the workers at the company?

I'd be happy to see a system where shareholders voted up or down in the AGM on distinct management proposals to engage in giving, and the proportion of the shareholding voting for the corporate giving determines the percentage of the proposed amount that can be donated.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 02:01:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
good idea re: the shareholder vote.

presumably, on the corporate giving to the local community, the workers (since they are local) would get some, though indirect, benefit.  I've seen situations where a company has a factory in a small town, largest business in town kind of thing, and the mayor/city council would ask for some support, and in this case it was always given, and everyone seemed to appreciate it--usually some kind of visible thing in the community,,,,support for a local sherrif's family killed in line of duty, or something needed in a local park,,,,all kinds of things, and local factory management would have authority up to some amount.  

by wchurchill on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 02:29:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, that would fall within this system, as an authorization of a contingency.

Of course, in a system where everyone working for an Ownership Union is automatically a member of a Labor Union, then the worker side of that might be seen as the Union making the charitable giving. However, there's still the corporate-feudalist aspect of the Ownership Union being able to make a charitable donation of of gross revenue by accounting it as a cost, while Labor Union would have to make it out of income generated.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 03:03:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
More funding for "culture" at the US Federal level:
The Smithsonian Institution is an educational and research institute and associated museum complex, administered and funded by the government of the United States and by funds from its endowment, contributions, and profits from its shops and its magazine. Most of its facilities are located in Washington, D.C., but its 19 museums and seven research centers includes sites in New York City, Virginia, Panama, and elsewhere. It has 142 million items in its collections.

...

The Smithsonian Institution was founded for the promotion and dissemination of knowledge by a bequest to the United States by the British scientist James Smithson (1765-1829), who had never visited the United States himself. In Smithson's will, he stated that should his nephew, Henry James Hungerford, die without heirs, the Smithson estate would go to the United States of America for creating an "Establishment for the increase & diffusion of Knowledge among men". After the nephew died without heirs in 1835, President Andrew Jackson informed Congress of the bequest, which amounted to 100,000 gold sovereigns, or $500,000 U.S. dollars ($9,235,277 in 2005 U.S. dollars after inflation).



Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 11:58:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you want more, here is a link where the NEA presents a nice analysis, complete with pie chart which I don't know how to copy over.

This source attempts to explain the private financing of the arts in an organized way.

by wchurchill on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 11:59:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's a lot more cultural funding at the local level than the federal level. The amount of federal money is a pittance compared to the money that cities and states give locally.

Many localities consider this money an investment in tourism and the community. Locally, in my town, there is local public funding in the millions (tens of millions) for the orchestra, world class art galleries, two theaters, a literary center (Just Buffalo), as well as arts in the community (teaching, support for venues, etc.).

In comparison, both federal and private funding is much smaller. Although universities do provide sizable support as well. Besides having artists on staff and [providing funds for student and community events, there are also funds which reach out to artsists nationwide. I run a reading series that spends $40k annually on honoraria for readings, and I'm also a judge for a book contest for women writers with a prize in the 5 figures. I've been the recipient of various prizes and grants over the years, several of them, none of which amounted to more than 4 figures, and a few of which were in the three fgure range. I'd imagine that a lot of practicing writers/artists are in my boat. You can't live off public/private funding for artwork but there is enough support to provide you the time to do it.

by Upstate NY on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 04:13:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...is a funding mechanism that has provided millions of dollars for public art in various cities and states in the U.S. over the past 30 years.  The way it works is that a certain percentage of the budget for any publicly-funded construction project (usually 1-2%) is allocated for public art projects.
by Grand Poobah on Mon Nov 27th, 2006 at 05:27:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It has been years since I was directly responsible for fundraising for these kind of activities, but from what I remember the major (99%) of the public moneys had as it's source the federal government.  Even if money is disbursed by the various state and county governments, the original source when you traced the money back, comes from the feds.  

This system allows for some local control and a heterogeneity that the author refers to.  However, there are always the regulations and reporting requirements that come along as a tiresome task that tend to level out the caliber and type of Artist for example that gets awarded the monies.

In other words, if you don't have the skills to properly request and solicit the funds, or your work is not in line with community standards you are usually out of luck.  And frankly, you have to know which ass to kiss on the local levels especially as that person(s) will be your advocate.  It is not a process that makes the cream rise to the top any better than the French one, but just looks that way to an outsider.

Private financing of art strictly for development and encouragement of the arts is less frequent in the visual arts than it is in the performing arts.  Often  in the performing arts the public and the private go hand in hand as with public television for example.  Public television has been very successful using the very medium they provide to market their charity campaigns.  Private giving on any large scale is as the author indicates is tied again to tax relief and corporations and foundations do give generously as it is their legal mandate to do so to qualify for the tax relief.

In the case of both corporations and charitable foundations it is the acquisition and control of money that in one way or another motivates the giving not the cultural enrichment itself.  

alohapolitics.com

by Keone Michaels on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 12:01:54 PM EST
And frankly, you have to know which ass to kiss on the local levels especially as that person(s) will be your advocate.

Which is exactly why I oppose the NEA and programs of that nature.  If artists want to screw their way to the top of the "creative industries," they can move to Hollywood.  The money is inevitably going to result in money going to shitty artists with political connections.

The strength of the US on culture is due to many, many factors, but the public budget is either (a) only a very small and relatively insignificant one, or (b) not a factor.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 12:22:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure what this means:
Private giving on any large scale is as the author indicates is tied again to tax relief and corporations and foundations do give generously as it is their legal mandate to do so to qualify for the tax relief.
The US tax code is explained in large books that when stacked on top of each other is 10 feet high.  The tax code is partially used to motivate certain behaviors, and corporations can qualify for tax deductions or tax credits if they choose to follow the government's direction.  Just as an example, for many years, regardless of party in power, there have been incentives and deductions for Research and Development.  But there is no legal mandate to give to charities to qualify for these tax breaks, or others.
by wchurchill on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 12:40:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To qualify as a tax-exempt organization certain behaviors need to be observed, that is what I meant by legal mandate.  In the case of foundations, they are defined by their purpose.  Perhaps I should have said legally defined.  You yourself say:
The tax code is partially used to motivate certain behaviors, and corporations can qualify for tax deductions or tax credits if they choose to follow the government's direction.

With foundations, if they don't "choose to follow the government's direction" then they don't exist.  I call that as close to a mandate as I can envision.

# mandate, a noun:   a document giving an official instruction or command


alohapolitics.com
by Keone Michaels on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 01:36:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ah, I see.  I was reading the word "corporation", and thinking you were talking about for profit corporations who also make some donations.  My quote that you mention above was in fact made in that context--a for profit organization--I used R&D tax incentives later as the example.

  Sorry for misreading your comment.

by wchurchill on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 01:46:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No offense taken.  This time of year I find myself a little snippy.  It's the fuckin season.  Bah! humbug!

Yeah, foundations and corporations.  It goes to the way the private charity giving is directed by the bureaucracy.  As you probably know most big for profit corps have foundations attached to them that they direct huge chunks if not all of their giving.  It is another layer of control over the flow of who gets the cash.

alohapolitics.com

by Keone Michaels on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 03:41:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I meant non profit corps and foundations=non profit entities.  I should have said most big for profit corps have "non profit entities" attached to them in some way.

Minigamy, monogamy, man loves polygamy

alohapolitics.com

by Keone Michaels on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 03:46:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know if you would agree with the charectarization of the French system regarding minorities, and I certainly don't have enough knowledge on this issue to judge its accuracy.
And in addition, the highly decentralised organisation makes it very vibrant, and open to all communities and neighborhoods. In France, the banlieue culture is completely ignored by tre ministry, apart form a few PR stunts. (...) In the US, African-American and Latino culture are much better supported.
But as the comment applies to the American approach, it makes the point that some were attempting to make about having choice in the process of giving with vibrant private giving, so that you are not dependent on the government to make the right choices.  And in fact, in the US, since public funding if it appears to slander one view, one set of beliefs, can actually be challenged due to our legal sytem.  So perhaps private charity is even more needed in America than elsewhere.
by wchurchill on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 12:26:45 PM EST
would it do any good to crosspost this on dKos? I'm not sure. I'll decide tonight - any feedback, ideas or comments appreciated.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 01:03:36 PM EST
It would make a good diary.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 01:07:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you post it on kos, it might generate more helpful comments if you also offer some perspective on why this would be surprising to French readers (ie what the virtues of centralized, public funding are) and what the myths/legends/truths about French popular culture.

Also, maybe a key difference here is public v. private funding, not only because of the attendant centralization/decentralization question, but because of the way this difference shapes so much of American culture and our idea of allegiances (I think of the prime example of school alumni associations in US).

BTW, do you want comments on the translation?

by viedunchat on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 03:29:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Welcome on ET and thanks for your comment!


BTW, do you want comments on the translation?

Sure. I've tried to make it understandable in English, and hopefully I have not made any egregious mistakes, but I won't pretend to any specific translation skills.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 05:37:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A lot of Kossacks will have personal experience with arts funding, both as applicants and as decision-makers. It would be interesting to see what they think.
by Matt in NYC on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 04:29:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Agreed. It would be interesting to see what would come up on Kos from various regions. Each state and each community varies wildly in the proportion of funding that comes from corporate, public, and private sources. My experiences in North Texas would be very different from that of someone from elsewhere. Visual and performing art from the Hispanic and other monority communities were strongly encouraged by public entities there, to their credit.  
by northsylvania on Sun Nov 26th, 2006 at 08:34:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What is "culture"?

I worked for 30 years in what we call the "entertainment industry" (boy, is that a loaded word or what?)

Martel's right about the French not understanding how the US industry works. I've been called a few times to write and/or edit articles about US television, US copyrights, etc. for the French writers' guild because they just don't understand it at all.

How it works, how things get made, distributed, what are the markets, who decides what, the legal issues, etc, etc.

by Lupin on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 01:07:30 PM EST
If the Americans are truly spending more money on culture (eg the statistics are not loosely gathered and similarly interpreted) it might be because America has a lot of catching up to do.

This being said, it'd be nice if one saw spent some of that philanthropy on public housing and an RMI of sorts so I'd see less single mothers at the dorothy day center and (presumably) the shelters.

France should otoh do a far better job giving minorities a palpable voice in public culture. one need look no further than public culture via the television to see what's missing...


The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 02:43:01 PM EST
What do you mean, a lot of catching up?

Don't assume that Hollywood is the sum total of culture in the US. It's not. Mass culture wil always dominate in the US, but there's a lot going on regardless.

by Upstate NY on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 04:16:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Don't assume that Hollywood is the sum total of culture in the US. It's not.

Of course it's not, and I don't except the idea that we have a lot of catching up to do.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Nov 26th, 2006 at 04:55:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One of the things that affects the way art is produced is the audience size.

To take the most extreme example, a Hollywood movie might cost $150 million. To make this back the producers need a large audience. They get a good base just from the domestic audience, but then try to sell elsewhere. This means that the movie needs to be understandable in other cultures. This is why many big movies are action films, it is easy for anyone to follow.

If a country like France or Italy makes a small film which is rooted in cultural norms then it is hard to sell elsewhere. So a chicken and egg problem arises. Small funding leads to small appeal and vice versa.

The same is true with pop culture as well. I doubt a rock band in Europe could afford to spend as much as a US band on a road show if they can only play in smaller venues.

Performance art is also very unevenly distributed. In NYC one could easily find five to ten classical music performances every night while in a small city one would be lucky to find any at all. If a string quartet appeals to one out of 100,000 in NYC one could get an audience of 70-100 people. In Buffalo this would be three to five. One produces a viable arts scene the other doesn't. Small arts groups are usually poorly funded, the big money goes to the highly visible groups (like Symphony Orchestras).

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 03:35:10 PM EST
It's funny. I was talking about Buffalo and Rochester in my post above. In both cities, I've found very vibrant arts scenes. I could describe what's going on in depth, but I've found very organic and interesting forms of art here, and the community supports them in numbers.
by Upstate NY on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 04:19:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Probably a bad choice on my part, since both have active universities.


Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape
by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 04:49:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
While it's true the universities figure into it somewhat, the Erie County gov't and the community itself is responsible for most of the support.

There are three theaters here, one which produces new scripts and sends plays onto Broadway, another which does Classical English theater, and a Modern theater. There is an orchestra and opera inside a Saarinen built opera house. There's the Albright Knox art gallery which is world famous, as well as smalle art galleries.

But then there are lots of venues for writing and literature, such as the Just Buffalo Center started by Robert Creeley, which hosts writers and interacts with the community on community literary projects. A few small bookstores with excellent reading series.

The city has renovated lofts for artists of all stripes, especially visual artists, and has given tax breaks which make the spaces very affordable.

The music scene is vibrant because of all the unemployed Eastman and conservatory students who stick around the Western NY area.

Then there are more radical or experimental art forms, the noise scene, bio-art by the likes of Steve Kurtz who has worked with the Critical Arts Ensemble, etc.

I know I've actually missed a lot, but I'm mentioning all these to show that a lot of small cities seem to support the arts with tax dollars, and also these events/projects are completely outside universities.

My experience flies in the face of previous posts which  argue that 99% of funding comes from the federal level. A small city like Buffalo has an arts budget that's 5% of the NEA, which tells me that other similar cities are providing lots of funding as well.

by Upstate NY on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 05:14:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think provincial culture in the U.S. is underestimated even by people living there, and Martel's points help show the hows and whys.  Many smaller (non-coastal) cities have symphonies and vibrant experimental theater scenes, not to mention truly innovative contemporary music (Seattle, Lincoln NB, Minneapolis, Athens GA).  I couldn't begin to speculate why, except for a non-economic reason: culture adapts to its surroundings.  In small towns and cities, there is a civic-minded attitude -- you go out and 'support' your neighbors.  I think also of small towns (under 2000). where everyone goes to see the high-school play.

Another comparative remark about major institutions getting all the money; in France this has additional geographical and historical pressure, since major cultural institutions were founded (nearly all) in Paris, and many in the 17th and 18th centuries (in the name of the monarchy).  

by viedunchat on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 05:41:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This has me thinking a bit now as I grew up in Minneapolis. I found this link with facts about the Minnesota arts scene. The chart at the very bottom of the page is jaw dropping, IMO. When I moved to Boston, I was completely shocked by how dead the art and music scene was, or at least felt, versus Minneapolis.

I don't know why this is. I have to think a lot of it boils down to specific actors (pun intended). For example the area is home to the corporate headquarters of Target, well known for their philanthropy:

Target Corporation is consistently ranked as one of the most philanthropic companies in the country. According to a November 2005 Forbes article, it ranked as the highest cash giving company in America in percentage of income given (2.1%).[35] Target donates around five percent of their pre-tax operating profit; it gives over $3 million a week (up from $2 million in years prior) to the communities in which it operates. It also gives a percentage of charges from its Target Visa to schools designated by the cardholders. To date, Target has given over $150 million to schools across the United States through this program. In fact, it is written in Target Corporation's corporate by-laws that it must give 5% of its pre-tax profits to charity.

The state does get in on the act too. The recently opened new (the original was built in 1963) Guthrie Theater was funded partially by the state of Minnesota:

Gov. Pawlenty has signed a $237 million bonding bill into law. The bill authorizes the state to borrow for construction projects, including buildings at state colleges and universities and flood relief in northwestern Minnesota. The largest single item in the bill is $25 million for a new Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Guthrie officials say the theater's inclusion in the bonding bill ends a lengthy lobbying effort.

They raised the other $100 million privately (the rest of that article is worth reading for political reasons).

It's certainly worth further study.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Sun Nov 26th, 2006 at 01:57:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's all cyclical. Boston was the center of the music scene in the 1980s, and then everyone fled for San Fran and Seattle. The Alt-Music scene started in Boston in the early 80s, though Minneapolis was very important as well.
by Upstate NY on Sun Nov 26th, 2006 at 11:22:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
any smaller (non-coastal) cities have symphonies and vibrant experimental theater scenes, not to mention truly innovative contemporary music (Seattle, Lincoln NB, Minneapolis, Athens GA).

Did someone move Seattle away from the coast recently without my knowledge?

In all seriousness, you're absolutely right that there are great scenes for the arts in smaller cities and towns -- although, after visiting Athens many times (our relatives on my father's side of the family live in Ila, a few miles North), I can't recall it being one of those towns.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Nov 26th, 2006 at 05:05:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's unfair to criticize Martel without actually reading his book, but judging from what I see here, he seems to be confusing two very different phenomena: highly politicized, ever-threatened government contributions to culture and the indeed vibrant tradition of American small- and large-scale private philanthropy (something even Toqueville remarked on almost 170 years ago).

That said, I'm shocked that "there is as much public money per person as in France" because I know how precious little public money there is for American artists and intellectuals in the U.S. If that is indeed true, both countries would do well to increase public expenditures. But I'm not surprised that there is "a lot more private money" in the U.S. This, along with African-American music and the First Amendment, is one of the very few significant contributions America has ever made to world civilization. France and every other wealthy European and Asian country would do well to study this phenomenon and see if something similar can't be developed and encouraged at home.

As for French centralization vs. American decentralization, this is a really complex issue. (Again, it's unfair to Martel to assume that he doesn't understand that.) With 300 million people spread over 50 semi-autonomous states (not provinces or departments) and half a dozen other administrative entities, there's no way anything American could ever be as centralized as in France. But more to the point, neither centralization nor decentralization guarantees equitable distribution of resources -- and even when distibution is in fact equitable, is it necessarily fair? (The controversy over "homeland security" funding comes to mind: should Texarkanans get as much per capita as New Yorkers? Do towns and states that anyone with "artistic sensibilities" flees the second they're old enough to live on their own deserve as much support as the tolerant, cultured villages and cities they yearn to settle in?)  

by Matt in NYC on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 05:10:21 PM EST
Sorry, ET purists, that was a typo, not a suggestion
that Alexis-Charles-Henri or his "ville" were even in the slightest degree toqué.
by Matt in NYC on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 05:52:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I imagine the public expenditures are larger mostly due to funding by the states, not the federal government...mostly in the form of arts programs at the many state-run Universities in the US (a much different system than exists in Europe).
by peaceandprogress on Mon Nov 27th, 2006 at 11:39:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
From L'hebdo des socialistes n425 p14 (PDF) an interview of Frederic Martel:


USA : une culture vivante, ouverte aux minorités

Qu'est-ce qui vous a conduit à vous intéresser à la politique culturelle américaine ?

Entre 2001 et 2005, j'ai été attaché culturel à l'ambassade de France aux États-Unis et j'ai eu la possibilité d'observer de près le système culturel américain. Ce livre est un ouvrage de recherche, pas un témoignage : je l'ai écrit pour essayer d'expliquer comment fonctionne ce système, afin de pouvoir mieux lutter contre l'impérialisme culturel américain, tout en faisant évoluer, en miroir, notre propre système. Car contrairement à ce que l'on pourrait penser, tout n'est pas critiquable dans le système américain.

Quelles sont les caractéristiques de ce système ?

Aux États-Unis, contrairement à la France, la culture n'est pas centralisée. Il n'y a pas de financement global, mais de multiples financements publics et privés, par le biais de la défiscalisation des dons. À l'arrivée, cela représente autant d'argent public par habitant qu'en France et beaucoup plus d'argent privé. Contrairement à ce que l'on pourrait penser, la culture américaine n'est donc pas sous-financée. En plus,
cette organisation, très décentralisée, est très vivante, ouverte sur les quartiers et les minorités. En France, les cultures de banlieues sont totalement oubliées par le ministère, à part quelques coups médiatiques, comme la récente opération La Rue au Grand Palais, qui rend encore plus clair le désintérêt de Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres à l'égard des Français issus de l'immigration. Aux États-Unis, les cultures noires ou latinos sont beaucoup plus valorisées.

La défiscalisation des dons est-elle une solution satisfaisante pour le financement des initiatives culturelles ?

La défiscalisation des dons est une bonne pratique, dont on s'inspire déjà. Mais il faut se méfier de l'idéalisation du mécénat, tel qu'il est défendu en France par les deux derniers ministres de la Culture de droite. Aux États-Unis, le mécénat d'entreprise ne constitue qu'environ 2,5 % du budget des institutions culturelles, un pourcentage en baisse, et les entreprises exigent des contreparties souvent excessives, et parfois délirantes, en terme de visibilité. Quand le ministre présente cela comme la panacée pour financer la culture, il se trompe puisque ça ne marche pas, même aux États-Unis.

Cela plaiderait pour un secteur qui doit rester public ?

Oui, en France, ce secteur doit rester largement une affaire publique. Mais publique ne signifie pas pour autant centralisée, homogène et sous tutelle, comme c'est le cas aujourd'hui. Il faut renforcer la place des universités (elles ont un rôle central aux États-Unis), valoriser les points de vue des minorités, accentuer la décentralisation : sur tous ces aspects, le système américain est très performant. Il faut aussi que l'État retrouve des missions négligées : par exemple, élaborer une régulation efficace des industries culturelles. On ne peut plus se contenter du prix unique du livre ou de la taxe en faveur du cinéma. Ce sont des dispositifs essentiels mais menacés par la mondialisation et les nouvelles technologies. Les fusions, comme Sony-BMG dans la musique, se multiplient sans que le gouvernement ne réagisse. La loi sur le téléchargement est un échec et la bibliothèque numérique européenne apparaît chaque jour un peu plus décalée face à Google.

L'approche américaine n'est donc pas entièrement négative ?

C'est un pays dont on ne sait finalement presque rien en matière de politique culturelle. Par exemple, les États-Unis ont proportionnellement deux fois plus d'artistes que la France. Notre problème n'est donc pas d'avoir trop d'artistes, ni trop d'intermittents du spectacle : c'est de ne pas en avoir assez et de ne pas avoir assez d'opportunités de travail ! Il faut se méfier des idées reçues sur le système américain et parfois savoir s'en inspirer pour mieux résister à son impérialisme !

Propos recueillis par Jacques Bernard

De la culture en Amérique, Frédéric Martel, Gallimard, 32 €. Frédéric Martel a été délégué national du PS et conseiller de Martine Aubry au ministère de l'Emploi et de la Solidarité. Membre du comité de rédaction de La revue socialiste, il a également publié Le rose et le noir, les homosexuels en France depuis 1968 (Seuil, 1996).

by Laurent GUERBY on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 06:22:32 PM EST
Very interesting. I like this guy! And bravo, la France, for appointing a cultural attaché to the U.S. whose stated objective is to "mieux lutter contre l'impérialisme culturel américain"! I'm surprised he didn't end up on a no-fly list---or in a cage in Guantanamo!
by Matt in NYC on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 08:17:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Societies prcaticing integration of immigrant communities tend to celebrate the differences of the minorities. Hence easy funding for minorities.
Societies practicing asimilation tend to celebrate the societies own dominant culture. Hence little funding for minorities.
by observer393 on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 10:52:32 PM EST
Ah, Culture. A slippery thing.

I came to Paris to live for the culture, --but not just the art, or the music or the cuisine only- I came for the cultural depth.
Culture has not been defined, so here is my take, Jerome.

Culture is a tradition that says it is a human right to have universal medical care that won't bankrupt a family if they are shat upon by fate.

Culture is a tradition of "Waiting table" that says a good waiter is an admirable calling, not a bottom-line subsistence job.

Culture is talking to a driver stalled for an hour during a terrible traffic jam as a result of a strike, and hearing him say that, in spite of his total frustration, he supports the strike---"Because next time it might be me".

Culture is this:
 After four years in public school, my nine year old son managed to go through five pairs of glasses, tore his pants a zillion times on the playground wrestling and pushing, --but never saw a child strike another child with a closed fist. When asked about this, the school directrice simply said, "Here, that is barbaric behavior". Case closed.(nine years ago- sadly, this is changing now.

Culture is this:
 At the center in Valenton where I go for therapy (I am a double amputee), the director told me on the first day I was there that I might not walk usefully. He said, "Our job here is not necessarily to make you walk, Jim. Our job is to maximise your quality of life."

Culture is this:
People who do NOT help you with tasks that you might reasonably be able to do by yourself--until you ask, or until it is obvious that you are in trouble. Then they help, ---and smilingly disappear. Dear God, thank you.

On my old street, in the ninth, I used to walk out my door and turn left, to pass first a retirement facility for military officers who were wounded. Then the Italian deli, where I grazed for six years, and never made a real dent in the task of trying it all: then the odd, petite Japanese hotel, then the Four Season grocery, run by two North Africans, then the Internet cafe and tattoo parlor, then the corner, and across the road was the antique doll hospital and museum, next door to the fireworks store (yes, right in the middle of Paris!), then the hairdresser from the bronx, then the transvestite bar, the Presse, -------  

Culture is a caleidoscope of elements, most of which develop over time. The USA is a cultural infant-- or perhaps an early adolescent, and has not had the time to build depth. This is not a criticism. It's just a fact. Our recent behavior might reasonably be described as adolescent mucle flexing from an adolescent giant who had played too many video games, too many Bruce Lee movies. Perhaps we will grow up.

Perhaps.

The "culture" of consumption- "Stuff Addiction"- is so powerful- speaks so loudly- that it drowns out the voices of the heart, of the soul, and therefore the USA may not get the chance to build that depth. That same addiction is becoming pervasive in France today. I suspect that the elements of French culture that I value so much would not exist if the French culture had formed in McWorld.
A huge part of culture is independent of funding levels, or the method of disbursement, but hinges on the definition of what is "Valuable". If a riding mower trumps a cello, all the money in the world won't make culture.
Thanks, and I do run on, ---no?

Jim  

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sun Nov 26th, 2006 at 09:43:09 AM EST
Very eloquent and very nicely put.
Good to see you around these parts again.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Nov 26th, 2006 at 10:10:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To paint, draw, sing, act, play musical instruments, even dance.

I just was never in dancer of making a living doing such things. :)

Have Keyboard. Will Travel. :)

by cskendrick (cs ke nd ri c k @h ot m ail dot c om) on Sun Nov 26th, 2006 at 06:04:56 PM EST


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]