Secretary of the Arts? Oh stop them now, please!!

Buy at Art.comSeems there’s an online petition out there to try to get Obama to create a new cabinet position – Secretary of Arts. When I checked it out, there were more than 140K signatures on there, and given all the publicity the “issue” has gotten recently, I’d expect we’ll see a few more.

This all started based on some comments Quincy Jones made about how he planned to beg Obama to create this position. Seems a few people agree with him.

Anyone else shuddering yet? Maybe I’m the only one. (Or maybe it’s just the cold here in New York.) Setting aside the obvious issue that this takes the federal government outside of its constitutional mandate (and I’m tired of paying for the litany of “extras” the government has taken on over the years), the idea of centralizing arts and culture leaves me a bit queasy. Not that I’m automatically expecting a cultural revolution ala China and Mao. But any time you have the government involved in what is or isn’t art and what should and shouldn’t be permitted we have a problem. Remember the Robert Maplethorpe debacle? The second public money gets involved, art is no longer defined by what an individual finds beautiful or inspiring, but by what the masses do not find offensive or profane. I find the rush to create some central agency to oversee arts in this country poorly thought out

I know, I know. This position is being pushed as one that would deal with policy – big things like copyrights and piracy and so forth. But, given our tendency toward creating a nanny state, just how long would it take before someone is calling on the Secretary of the Arts to “do something” about offensive art or dirty lyrics or erotic literature? Every single issue I’ve seen discussed as becoming part of this person’s job is already covered by another agency or department. Do we really need more bureaucracy or just more efficiency? Is this just an ego trip for Jones or artists in general? After all, if it has a cabinet position attached to it, it must be important, right?

I suppose this one time I should be happy that Obama will have so much else on his plate that this really shouldn’t rise to the level of a priority. On the other hand, it’s the kind of “feel-good” action politicians love to take to distract us from what’s really important. Where do you think this is going to end up? Am I worrying for nothing? Am I wrong that this is not a direction we should be headed?

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