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The topic ‘Obama and the Arts’ can be seen from two different perspectives: (1) Barack Obama has been inspirational to artists worldwide. (2) Will Barack Obama’s 2009 Economic Stimulus Package address unemployment among artists in analogy to the Federal Art Project, part of the Work Project Administration (WPA) created by Roosevelt? For comments please see

(A) Quoting Rob Walker, New York Times:
   Whether or not Barack Obama would make a good president, it’s clear that he makes an excellent muse. It’s hard to think of a political candidate in recent memory who has, in real time, inspired so much creativity, exercised free of charge and for the campaign’s benefit. Perhaps this suggests something about Obama — or maybe it suggests something about his supporters.

Shepard Fairey created this limited edition print of Barack Obama in an effort to fund a larger street poster campaign, January 2008. Fairey is one of today’s best known and most influential street artists. He sits on the advisory board of Reaching to Embrace the Arts, a not-for-profit organization that provides art supplies to disadvantaged schools and students.

A painting "Michelle and Sasha Obama Listening to Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention, August 2008" by Elizabeth Peyton, another contemporary artist, was exhibited in the The New Museum in New York City’s Lower East Side neighborhood.

Another manifestation of the enthusiasm for Obama within the art community was an auction that brought together the work of more than 100 contemporary artists enabling artObama raised over $46,000 for Obama’s presidential campaign.

(B) Will the 2009 Economic Stimulus Package provide employment for artists?

With an economic stimulus package, Barack Obama has proposed to "put people back to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, modernizing schools that are failing our children, and building wind farms and solar panels," by adding 2.5 million jobs.

An analogy is provided by the Works Project Administration (WPA) that was created by Franklin Delano Roosevelt to deal with the Great Depression. More than 8,500,000 Americans were hired to build roads, public buildings and parks and do other infrastructure work around the country. Unemployed artists were hired through the Federal Art Project, part of the WPA.

The lasting legacy of art, funded by the Federal Art Project, can still be seen and enjoyed throughout USA.

Originally posted to birgitz on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 04:30 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Not a bad diary (4+ / 0-)

    It would be a good time to revive the Federal Arts Project (FAP), and its sub-organizations such as the Federal Writers Project.  If I recall correctly, Robert Pinsky has argued for bringing back the FWP.

    Anyway, since you seem to be new here: it's done this way:

    1. You write a diary.
    1. You post a "tip jar" as the first comment.
    1. You hang around for awhile and respond to any comments.

    I think this diary is worth a little more attention, though it might wait for a less crisis-ridden day.

  •  Art and music education!! (9+ / 0-)

    I'm appalled at the lack of funding for these programs in public schools. Our youngest son attends a high school with almost 3000 students. There are less than 50 kids in the marching band...and they don't even have uniforms - and this is at one of the newer, more wealthy schools in the county. Getting kids involved in activities in music and fine arts gives them something to do besides get drunk, get high, get laid, get violent, etc.

  •  hopefully stimulus package will rebuild more (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kellogg, sboucher

    than just roads and like FDR funds will be there for historians and artist alike

    Wanna live like a republican??..Well Vote Democrat!

    by bh20755 on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 04:44:40 PM PST

  •  I agree completely. I worked in non-profit (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KingOneEye, Lady Libertine, trs

    arts organizations for most of my career, and, as everyone knows, arts programs are the first to get cut in any budget. Local schools here have already cut back, and I'll bet that's a national trend.

    It would be a great thing if Obama replaced the head of the NEA with someone who understands contemporary art and halls the balls to stand up to people who begin shouting "Karen Finley! Chocolate!"

    I agree this diary deserves more attention than it's going to get today...I'd like to see some pictures here of masaterpieces created during FAP and WPA, to give people an idea of how important work for artists is, and how many artists they know of became established because of these programs.

    •  Although... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ...there's an argument that art has no special case to plead these days because it has embraced the lower motives of advertising culture and shock publicity. The work  is simply a high brow form of celebrity.  See: Tracy Emin and Damien Hirst.

      Someone like Christo is a bit more populist of course. And his content is safe enough.

      the intelligence community is no longer geared towards telling the president what they think the president wants to hear

      by Salo on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 05:37:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Would you date it back to Dali (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        and his self-promotion? Direct line through Warhol to Hirst. Of course there will always be "celebrity" artists -- did you see Bono palling around with him at Hirst's recent "auction?"

        I believe part of the "my kid could do this" people could find modern and contemporary art they like, were the field not so insular and they were exposed to more of it. They already like Lichtenstein and Oldenberg (did you know Coosje van Bruggen died yesterday?), and others they like but don't know is "high" art.

        Go. Have a cup of tea and let's not talk art history on your time off. I hope we can do so on future diaries on the topic. You sound like you'd be a good person to write one.

        •  Courbet was a crazy self promoter too. (0+ / 0-)

          David was also a theatrical stage designer and parade float designer as well as official artist of the Republic and Napoleon's toady.  So artists have always had a special place in relation to PR and the state.  It's really hard to say where/when such things started.

          oh Coosje died.  She was real power house artist and writer. It's strange too because people do tend to like  the advertising strategies and cleverness of artist in surprising ways.  Hirst actually sells papers and TV time.  But does his art have any special status now that it's so obviously using commercial publicity techniques?  He business strategies are heavily imitated by by all sorts younger artists all throughout the 1990s and 2000s.

          the intelligence community is no longer geared towards telling the president what they think the president wants to hear

          by Salo on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 06:00:29 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Quincy Jones has inspired this: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It's a petition to ask President-Elect Obama to appoint a Secretary of the Arts. While many other countries have had Ministers of Art or Culture for centuries, the United States has never created such a position.  We in the arts need this and the country needs the arts--now more than ever.  Please take a moment to
    sign this important petition and then pass it on to your friends and colleagues.

    "Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it." ML King

    by TheWesternSun on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 05:14:49 PM PST

  •  rec this diary! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kellogg, sboucher, birgitz

    Shep Fariey's posters are an obvious return to the style of the Russian constructivists. A moderist movenement that was banned by the Politiburo in Russian when Stalin took over.

    Artists: Tatlin, Noam Gabo etc.  They are artists that are being seriously looked at again as a way out of certain contemporary dead ends.

    I've been predicting a resurgence of this sort of art for a while. Modernism with a hint of political or functional utility but not quite propaganda.

    the intelligence community is no longer geared towards telling the president what they think the president wants to hear

    by Salo on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 05:32:47 PM PST

    •  a modernist movement... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ...i'm a bit punchy, I just finished lecturing an art history class.

      the intelligence community is no longer geared towards telling the president what they think the president wants to hear

      by Salo on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 05:34:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  new direction in art. (0+ / 0-)

      Coming from Germany, decades ago, I embraced Georg Grosz' cartoons. They helped me to deal with my heritage of the German civilization of the first half of the 20th century.

      To what extent would one expect other people to be also helped dealing with their unhappy cultural/political experiences by viewing art with a socio-political point of view?

      That said, is it true that, in the 20th century, the CIA supported abstract art because it was nonpolitical?

  •  arts versus arts in education (0+ / 0-)

    There are a variety of ways that arts can be supported by the obama administration, and they rightfully should be.

    Obama has spoken of health care benefits for professional artists in return for public service.

    My guess is that most of the support for the arts will come in the form of educational programs to integrate artists with diverse communites. This is a much easier sell and shows an intent to have the arts benefit education. It should be remembered though that without funding the infrastructure for artists to receive grants and produce works our works of art will not improve, nor will it be exported and sold abroad to the degree that it could.

    There is a pitiful lack of production structures and funding for the arts in the USA. While I anticipate that there will be more money for arts and education I am concerned that creating an effective infrastructure for providing deep and consistent support for arts will be left out; and thus left to market forces.

    As an aside cirque de soleil received funding in their early years from montreal and quebec. That enabled them to grow into the economic powerhouse that they are now. There are many U.S. groups that could also grow to that level of quality with similar support.

    While art in education is fundamental to making us a better society it is different than the type of funding that increases the quality of our art works or the lives of our artists.

    penetrating wisdom for the politically repressed

    by Thirdeye Pushpin on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 06:17:21 PM PST

  •  art as national investment (0+ / 0-)

    Jay said:
    I worked in a form of art education for eleven years. School groups k-12 were a regular part of my day. What to do with these people in the museum setting.was a challenge. A large portion of the inner city kids were visually disengaged in that they lived in unsightly circumstances, were glued to and cued by mass media and often couldn’t see a dog in a tapestry for all one’s pointing. It appeared that visual competency, the ability to absorb what is there to be seen and to synthesize it into something fresh or useful, was virtually gone. Talking about a Rubens or a Stella was beside the point when the students needed to practice the most elementary forms of connection between their eyes, hands, a medium of some sort and a theme. To me art, as a pursuit that strengthens one’s inward abilities and forges links to outward circumstance, is a most important national investment.

    My reply:You described a horrific experiment on humans manipulating their visual, somatosensory/motor and cognitive learning.

    Experiments done on animals – kittens - that show, when raised in an environment of vertical stripes, kittens are virtually blind to a horizontal bar and, therefore, bump into it.

    Compared to the orientation of a line, movement appears to be an even stronger stimulus for perception. Frogs jump after flies, eagles dive for running mice and, we humans too, are built with a heightened awareness to movement.

    Now, you told us about three neuropathologies resulting from glueing a child to mass media

    (1) ..often could not see a dog in a tapestry for all one’s pointing. Thus, children, glued to moving stimuli, MOVIES, had become blind to STATIONARY objects. Visual pathology.

    (2) ...lacked the most elementary forms of connection between their eyes, hands, .... Somatosensory/motor pathology.

    (3) .. lacked the most elementary forms of connection between their eyes, hands, a medium of some sort and a theme. Cognitive pathology.

    And all of that can be prevented by art, as a pursuit that strengthens one’s inward abilities and forges links to outward circumstance .

    Art is a cost-effective national investment compared to the cost of medical therapies attempting to undo these neuropathologies of children.

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