Sunday, February 1, 2009

Politicians target art funds when searching for budget cuts

Fabric Artist Eileen Doughty of Alexandria, VA, presents a rebuttal to what several politicians are saying about the value (or lack of) funding to art and artists.

Photo: Here's an image of one of her new Obama pieces, "Freedom's Box". Basically an allegory of Pandora's Box. Bush invoked Freedom (which is personified by the Statue on top of the capitol), but it had unforeseen consequences, letting loose all the troubles. Hope remains - symbolized by a golden brown bird, Obama.
To see more of Eileen's activist quilts, check out this link.

With the economy in the tank and government budgets being slashed, it was just a matter of time till the art community was targeted. Here are two recent examples:

  • Washington State Senator Steve Hobbs has introduced a bill which would remove the requirement to purchase art for public buildings for the years 2010 and 2011. Currently, Washington state agencies set aside half of 1 percent of the cost of any new government building to purchase public art.
  • U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers expressed concern about for $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts in the stimulus bill. "That's not a(stimulus) expenditure," Rogers said. "You may like the NEA, but $50 million in art spending is not a stimulus in the economy."
So Congressman, what am I, chopped liver? Art doesn't stimulate the economy? I, as an artist do not contribute to economic stimulus? Perhaps these politicians subscribe to the common stereotype that artists should be starving and are happy to be broke.

Let's be real. I am a studio artist and have been helping to support my family with sales of my art for about 17 years. With my oldest going to college next year, that income will be even more necessary.

I do not make my art in a vacuum, pulling both ideas and materials out of thin air. Let's take a look at where I fit in "stimulating the economy" by not only selling, but by buying goods and services from other companies.

Here's a quick list, off the top of my head:

  • business stores like Staples, for paper and ink and copying services
  • freight companies: USPS, FedEx, UPS
  • local fabric stores and my local woman-owned quilt shop
  • insurance company
  • Internet service for my website hosting
  • art supplies - local stores, preferably locally owned (not chains)
  • hardware stores, prefer the locally owned one in my town
  • art galleries, museums, and other venues that show art
  • bookstores, to buy publications on art and business
  • magazines on art, art quilts, public art, business
  • framing shops
  • art consultants, architects, and others who help make those percent-for-art projects a reality
Then there is the the Torpedo Factory, a huge art center in Alexandria, Virginia. I am a member of a co-op which has had a gallery there since the place was renovated and reopened in 1974. This place draws crowds of people from all over. It is not unusual to have visitors from Europe and Australia and Japan, let alone every state of our Union. This year it became a "port" for a new water taxi that goes to a few hot spots along the Potomac. It also anchors the trolley system that runs through Old Town Alexandria. How many tourist dollars do you suppose our art helps bring to this area? Do you think the hotels and restaurants, airports, metro transportation system, taxi companies would notice if we went under?

I pay state taxes on retail sales and fed income taxes. That's your salary, Mr Politician. And I vote.

No, I'm not just chopped liver. I'm a portion of a nutritious and ambitious five course meal.

Photo: Eileen Doughty

Eileen is definitely NOT chopped liver. I met her via the Internet several years ago. I'm not sure if it was when I interviewed her for an article in Quilters World Magazine or just what it was that brought us together. She has been in my life so long I can't remember when she wasn't. She has certainly been patient and opened up a whole new world of fabric artistry to me.

Since that first interview, she has graciously answered questions and helped me connect with other artists, including Thelma Smith and her Activist Quilt
s exhibit "Changing the World One Thread at a Time." Astounded at what artists were doing with fabrics and what messages they incorporated in them, I quickly became an ardent fan of this free speech forum they have created. I also admire Eileen because she pursued an amazing first career -- cartography. Anyone who sees maps, must also see them as art forms. Exact and exacting art forms.

In 1991, Eileen, who had resigned her position as a supervisory cartographer to stay home with her newborn daughter, opened
her business "Doughty Designs."

Photo above: Root Domain, one of Eileen's favorite projects incorporates thread painting and offers much for us to take away from it.

She describes her artwork's evolution: "My philosophy is that I am a fiber artist, and my work should emphasize that it cannot be achieved with a simple flat surface. My newest work has more dimensionality by employing frayed edges, weaving, holes, non-cotton fabrics, multiple layers, etc. I am also learning how to express my worldview and political opinions in my art."

Here are a couple of upcoming shows where you can enjoy her work if you're in the neighborhood:

  • February 9 - March 5, 2009 "President Obama: A Celebration in Art Quilts"Cafritz Arts Center, Montgomery College, Takoma Park, Maryland
  • March 25 – April 8, 2009 Taiwan International Quilt Exhibition 2009 National Tainan Living Art Center, Tainan city, Taiwan


Anonymous said...

Eileen is so right. Whenever there is a crisis, the first thing politicians (or sometimes even school administrators) want to cut is funding for the arts & music. Looking back in history, what did FDR do in times of trouble? The Works Progress Administration (WPA) is a perfect example of the government stimulating economy in a positive way & making people happy in dire times. Don't we ever learn from history?

Quilted Librarian said...

Eileen, this is such an important post. Your points are right on the money--literally. I hope that you have shared it on the Obama site. Both the President and the First Lady have expressed their opinions about the importance of helping artists to thrive in our country. Thank you so much for sharing this with all of us in the blogosphere.