"The Netherlands is an intriguing case study in the debate over how much public funding should go to the arts. Though the infusion of government spending on the arts in the 1970s and '80s created an arts mecca hailed around the world, it also attracted hangers-on and yielded warehouses full of artworks of dubious merit and zero value on the commercial art market.I recommend Amelia Thomas' article "Taxpayer support for artists: too much of a good thing?," excerpted above. Even though the Romantic in me believes that art should be prioritized by society and, therefore, also by the state, in practice government sponsored arts programs often have a negative impact on the arts because they support a surplus of ne'er-do-wells.
Ultimately, the Netherlands found there can, in fact, be too much of a good thing. The government-backed support structure for artists created a talent glut, and it collapsed under its own weight."
-Amelia Thomas, Christian Science Monitor, March 4, 2005
Is it tough to make a living as an artist without being on the dole? You bet it is! In the United States, most artists take full-time or part-time day jobs so that they might pay the bills. Returning home from these jobs, we work late into the night or all weekend on our "calling," our vocation. This lifestyle isn't healthy, but there is an upside; the challenge separates the chaff.
In a system like ours, one lacking substantial federal support for the arts, artists who might otherwise survive on government "grants, subsidies, pensions, and payouts" will usually flee the scene. This type of artist makes art simply because he or she can. That might not sound like a bad thing, but it is different from vocational art making; indeed, it is merely avocational. By contrast, the artists who make art because they must will keep on keeping on regardless of any government's arts policy. These artists, those that make work no matter the sorry economic prospects or hard work of the "art career" path, inject soulful vitality into their creations.