Should the State Support the Arts?

SRP Arizona LeadershipJason Gunawardena, Class 27
Sr. Electrical Engineer, Salt River Project

Art day has to have been the most memorable day so far in the Scottsdale Leadership Program. We learned about programs at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, saw many of Scottsdale’s Public Art pieces and toured an Artist School. This is an exploration of a segment of our Arts Day where representatives from the Arizona Commission of the Arts and the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts were appealing for further state support for the arts.

The arts enlarge, elevate, and harmonize the soul of Scottsdale.  It may be asked what would become of arts in Scottsdale without her Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.  It might even be asked whether, without centralization and consequently the support of fine arts, that exquisite taste would be developed which is the fruit of the city’s labor, and which introduces its productions to the world.

Does the right of the Arizona legislator extend to cutting the wages of the people, to supply the profits of the artist?  It was said, “Without public funding, the arts will not survive.”  It might be answered, if you desire to support everything which is good and useful, where will you stop?  Will you not be led to form a civil list for agriculture, industry, commerce, benevolence, education?  Then does government aid favor the progress of art?

Galleries that prosper are those that depend on their own resources.  We observe that wants and desires arise, and are born and refined in proportion as the public wealth allows these to be fulfilled.  Government should not take part in the arts, because it could not by taxation stimulate the arts of necessity, while restricting those of luxury, thus creating a natural disruption.

Choosing and spending should come from the people and not from government and the opposite will lead to the destruction of liberty and human dignity.  But why is it that when we disapprove of government support, we are philistines and are supposed to disapprove of the thing whose support is discussed only because we desire to see those activities seek reward in themselves.  Can the state exist to protect the free development of all these kinds of activities without pillaging from others?  The development is natural under the influence of liberty instead of being shaped by the powers that legislature dictates.    When asked “what is art?” and one of my classmates said “humanity.”  If art is humanity then this is not art.

The constitutionality of the establishment came into question.   The response received was the pursuit of happiness is in the constitution and art provides happiness.  Then give freedom to pursue happiness without government providing it for us as the founders designed it.

They stated that in regards to financing, that at the end of the day the federal government is a leader to its constituents and even if it gives a rounding error of 200 million it is conveying the message that art is a central part of our lives.  So the government should be dictating to its people what should be the central part of our lives similar to North Korean society?  It is clear that the taxpayer, will no longer have this “rounding error” at his own disposal and that the workman who would have received it from him, will be deprived of a benefit to that amount.  The vote of the 200 million will not add anything to the well being of the country, and to the national labor.


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