Posts Tagged ‘South Carolina Arts Commission’

Has Hell Frozen Over or What?

Monday, July 9th, 2012


As I post this entry today, the South Carolina Arts Commission has been shut down. Am I celebrating? I wish. Due to a fluke in the legislative calendar our Governor’s token veto to please her Tea Bagger friends has caused a closing of the Arts Commission – just as long as it takes the SC Legislature time to re-convene and override the token veto.

So for a week or a little longer, the SC Arts Commission will be shut down. Is this the end of the arts in South Carolina? Hardly – most won’t notice a difference. Sure, those folks who receive funding from the Arts Commission or hope to one day will cry and claim that this is the end of all arts in SC.

Am I against public funding for the arts? No! I never have been. I just don’t like the way the folks at the SC Arts Commission operate in what they say is their mission – to foster and support the arts in SC. It they did that, I’d be one of their biggest supporters. But they don’t do that – they never have. What they do is pick and choose who and what they want to support as if they know better and they manipulate others involved in the arts by pulling the strings of support in the form of funding. You do what they want, the way they tell you – or no funding for you.

What I’ve always wanted to see done with the SC Arts Commission is to have it torn down and rebuilt to be an agency that helps all in the arts. An agency that acts as a supporter not a dictator. An agency that doesn’t say we can’t because others don’t. An agency that is a true friend of the arts, not in many cases an enemy.

When I say I don’t care for them – don’t worry – the feeling is mutual. If they are still around the day we come to an end – they will be celebrating.

When people remark to us – thanks for all you do for the arts – I wonder how can that be true, what do they mean by that? How could we be helpful to the arts -we’re not sanctioned by the Arts Commission?

I mean think about it – when the state agency dealing with the arts won’t send us the press releases they send out to other media – because we might not agree with something in it or question something and dare to say so – that should show you we’re not helpful – we’re something to be avoided. Their policy is you’re either with them or against them. That’s a helpful attitude to have as a state agency. An agency created to serve the citizens of SC.

If it sounds like I want a piece of the pie or this is sour grapes as I can’t ever have a piece of the pie, you’re missing the point. We’ve existed for 25 years without their money and will for many more without it. Have there been things we could have accomplished with public funding – yes, and there are hundreds of projects that could also do wonders with public funding, but they won’t ever happen – while many more get funding and accomplish nothing more than supporting – supporters.

If you want an example of what I’m talking about, here’s one. Many years ago artists complained that there weren’t enough critical reviews being done in SC. There still aren’t. We talked with folks at the Arts Commission about setting up a program where they would pay writers directly for doing reviews that we would include in our paper – providing more reviews. They said this would not be possible as this would be a benefit to us – that we might profit from it. That is forbidden. I had to scratch my head in thinking how we would benefit – the paper is free, only the writers would be paid and we would have to cover the cost of the space we would be giving up in the paper that could otherwise be used to sell ads. How was I going to profit from that? We can’t afford to do this on our own – so nothing is accomplished toward solving this problem. Although they did do the same thing giving thousands of dollars to a publication coming out of Chicago to do the same thing – only not many people in SC ever saw that publication. But, that paper was a non-profit so it was OK to throw that money down the drain.

My point all along is that the majority of the successful parts of the greater art community lies in the commercial side of the arts. When you see surveys that talk about how many jobs are created and the economic impact of the arts – the majority of those figures are counted from businesses dealing in the arts – not non-profit arts groups. Non-profits in the arts generate few jobs and fewer profits. If they did, they wouldn’t be so worried about losing their meager public funding, which most of the time has to be matched by funding from other sources. Other sources who would probably give them funding – if they felt the group was serving the community.

No non-profit in SC exists solely on the money they receive from the SC Arts Commission.

But, the SC Arts Commission and the folks who do get funding from them would like you to believe that without the SC Arts Commission and the funding they provide to select groups – all arts in SC would shrivel up and die. That notion is so funny it hurts to think about it. Would we stop? No! Would art galleries close up? No! Would creative people stop creating? No! Would some people be out of a meal ticket? Yes! If the art welfare stopped coming – some folks would have to find something else to do. And, in most of those cases they would have to find something they are better at than what they are doing now to survive.

So, am I celebrating the Governor’s little victory over the SC Arts Commission? No, not at all. Will I lift a finger to help save them when they’re not really in jeopardy? No. Do I wish our state would do something better to help the arts and help our state profit more from a stronger cultural industry? Yes! Yes I do. Am I hopeful? No. In a couple of weeks we’ll all be back to the same old thing.  Yay, SC.