Well, it was to be expected...The Blade, our local daily newspaper, has another article on the 'Art Assist' program. They did call me for comment, but I said no - I suggested that, if they wanted a Republican Party perspective on this as they said, they should contact the Republican Party or interview Republican elected officials throughout the county.
I don't know if they did this, but the only 'contrary' opinion given in the article was when they quoted my original blog post on this topic. Don't get me wrong - I'm glad they read my writings. But I am disappointed that they either didn't contact anyone else OR that local republicans failed to take a principled stand on this issue.
But back to today's article...
It starts with a hard tug on the heart strings with a poor local artist who doesn't sell enough of his art to support himself full time. Got news for you...a LOT of artists don't sell enough to avoid another job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, earnings for self-employed artists vary widely. "Some charge only a nominal fee while they gain experience and build a reputation for their work...Many, however, find it difficult to rely solely on income earned from selling paintings or other works of art." And, the $25,000 the County is making available in low interest loans of $500 - $2,000 isn't going to make a difference in that!
The article says:
"Joe Zsigray, the (Collingwood Arts) center’s executive director, said he hopes the program can lure not only new art buyers into the market but also induce those who already buy local artwork to buy more.
(induce those who already purchase art? perhaps those LEAST likely to need a loan???)
“The problem that we have in Toledo is not that we don’t have enough artists. It’s just that we don’t have enough people buying the art,” he said."
So our market isn't good. Okay - then let's artificially support the market...and then, when the limited $25,000 for local purchases expires, the market will return to what it is now. How does that really help our local artists or our local economy? We artificially create a demand, but when that artificial demand is gone - what then? Government will use MORE of our tax dollars to subsidize MORE of an artificial demand? Wasn't it Reagan who said that a government program is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth?
In the article, a local gallery owner says: "Mr. Zaleski said: “Everybody needs a new pair of shoes, but not everybody needs art.” He also said that there's been no formal study of the art market in Toledo. Wouldn't such a study have been a good idea before investing public monies in ANY program? Wouldn't we, as a community, have been better served by understanding the issues that prevent our local artists from being successful and then helping to address those issues - rather than implement a superficial program with limited impact? I'm not suggesting another government study - but before trying to impact an industry and local market, wouldn't it be nice to understand it?
And then there was this quote:
"Some artists who have had trouble selling work in Mr. Zaleski’s galleries have traveled to Chicago and sold their pieces for double or triple the original price tag. When the artwork was on sale in Toledo, people seemed to place a lower value on it, he said."
Wow - your work doesn't sell well here, but it does sell well elsewhere...so why are we subsidizing - with tax dollars - purchases here? (And don't say it's for the sales tax - the County's portion of the sales tax on $25,000 is only about $300.) Why aren't the artists traveling en masse to Chicago? And how smart is that, especially in an industry that doesn't rely upon location for success? Would any type of analysis of our local market have shown this as a factor?
So, the County is losing investment income, the small amount of available loans isn't really going to make much of a difference in terms of sales tax or individual artists ... IF anyone actually takes advantage of it (The Blade didn't mention anyone who's actually qualified for the loan). So why are we doing this?
Are we just trying to set the stage for a more significant investment of public dollars in the future? Is there some special "arts lobby" out there pushing for a new government program? Are we using public funds and offices to cater to a personal interest? Does the fact that our local paper promotes such art programs factor into the decision in any way?
Or is it just a really nice press opportunity... all smoke and mirrors with no real substance?
I have no idea, but I resent the attempt by this latest article to make me feel sorry for these 'struggling artists.' Isn't the 'struggle' supposed to make the artist better? And if we're supposed to feel sorry for these individuals to the point that we subsidize their 'products,' what about everyone else in our community who is struggling? How about if we subsidize every local business who can't sell enough of their product to be self-sustaining? Where will it stop?
One of the major points of my first blog on this was that the priorities of the County, in putting this program above everything else, were misplaced. They still are misplaced, in thinking that this program will spur any economic development. True economic development and growth don't come from an artificial market demand. And no government program can create a true demand for a product. But they can certainly spend your tax dollars in a failed effort to do so.