Building A Foundation For Debating The Arts

I’m reading Bill Ivey’s Arts, Inc. in between hard sci-fi and biographies of the Founding Fathers (Ron Chernow’s Washington is, by the way, awesome great), so I was excited to see that Ian David Moss and the good people at Createquity are restarting their Arts Policy Library series with a look at the book. I’m glad to see them starting this series up again in any case — one of the best things about the current state of the blogophere is how it has elevated policy debates and research, particularly around health care, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the economic crisis. And it’s good to have a basic primer on the arts policy literature out there for those of who are trying to catch up with blogging experts in the field like Gabriel Rossman.

I think it’s a sign that Ivey, who argues that government has abdicated its role in securing cultural rights, which are being eroded by expanding corporate ownership, is essentially correct on some level that most of my thinking—and the thinking of most people who care about pop culture—about how to make our culture better involves demonstrating that there are markets and other incentives for companies to make more shows and movies about Latinos, or to make movies for women that aren’t gratuitously sexist. We have conversations about copyright, remixing, and things, but we mostly skip over questions of heritage and cultural rights, and our conversations about cultural diplomacy are mostly confined to the market, the question of what makes it overseas in stores and theaters. I don’t necessarily agree with everything Ivey’s saying, but the book is an important reminder of how cramped our debate over art and cultural policy has become. It’s worth reading as a way of forcing the door open, even if we eventually decide on a narrower role for government.