UK Culture Secretary: Cut Soul, Push Purse Strings

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Great Britain’s top culture executive is pushing the age-old conservative philosophy of scrapping concerns for artistry and concentrating on money.

According to Thursday’s BBC News:

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Culture Secretary Maria Miller has said the arts world must make the case for public funding by focusing on its economic, not artistic, value.

She told arts executives in a speech that they must “hammer home the value of culture to our economy”.

Ms Miller said: “When times are tough and money is tight, our focus must be on culture’s economic impact.”

maria-miller ftMoney’s tight all right. In December, CFR reported that Arts Council England (ACE), fresh off a November struggle over a drastic funding cut, learned it would have its budget bled by a further ¬£11.6m before 2015. Arts Council England is the nation’s public cultural agency.

At that time, Miller in a blog said the cultural budgets must not be given “special protection.” The arts are looking at an overall cut from ¬£449.5m to ¬£338m by 2014.

Her attitude then brought criticism from cultural leaders, primarily Sir Nicholas Hytner, artistic director of England’s National Theatre. He called the increased cuts “madness.”

Hynter was also critical of Miller’s statements this week: “…Hytner said there was ‘a contradiction at the heart of her thinking.’ Arts organisations are facing big challenges as a result of austerity measures from central and local governments,” reported BBC News.

Will Gompertz, BBC News arts editor, also questioned Miller’s philosophy:

She talked enthusiastically about the success of the arts sector in helping drive the economy forward by supporting – and being part of – the creative industries, and by providing a valuable magnet for tourism.

I spoke to some attendees who wondered why, if she truly believed this to be the case, would she not argue for increased, not decreased investment in the sector in order to fully realise its potential?

In the 1990s, a conservative-led U.S. House of Representatives tried to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, but the Democratic-controlled Senate wouldn’t allow it. Still, the conservative drive forced NEA Chairman Jane Alexander to stress the arts’ economic benefits, her effort to appeal to mammon-minded Republicans who were heavily opposed to funding any individual artists, but agreed to provide monies to arts organizations.