Elitist s. Populist: David A. Smith’s book “Money for Art”

Everything can’t be art, or art won’t be anything.

-David A. Smith,author of “Money for Art: The Tangled Web of Art and Politics in American Democracy”

I listened to an interesting interview with author David A. Smith on the radio (KERA’s “Think” with Kris Boyd out of Texas)

Smith commented on how government in its attempts to support the arts has to set parameters that define what art is.  He also discussed whether art funding should go toward society and art accessibility, or if it should fund individual artists and their visions.  Smith is of the opinion the elitism is necessary for art, because it sets the bar for good, serious art.  As the quote above implies, if we let art be anything it destroys its own credibility.  I suppose a good analogy would be that if we have the freedom to be anything and everything, then we are nothing without the structure of reference.  I have to agree with Smith.  Even the most ground breaking “anything goes” art was only great for its rebellion, and once that boundary was broken it could not have any further power in defining a work or movement.  We need history and context as much as we need institution.  Art ultimately is a meaningless human construct anyway, so we need our own society and culture to give it purpose and meaning

I have not read Smith’s book yet, but plan to, as the radio interview alone was excellent and thought provoking.