From Publishers Weekly
Arts funding policy has dropped off the national public affairs radar in recent years, and much of the remaining debate continues to take the form of knee-jerk pro and con positions. Economist Cowen (In Praise of Commerical Culture) dismisses such debates at the outset, and goes on to make a case for the current American system, which, unlike the European model, emphasizes indirect, rather than direct, subsidies. Cowen finds that indirect funding-funding arts organizations rather than giving stipends to artists or commissioning works directly-is ultimately beneficial to the development of new artistic forms, and to helping arts endeavors flourish. He devotes significant pages to the history of arts funding in the U.S., including the New Deal-era Works Progress Administration, and also devotes a chapter to copyright, in which he argues that the Internet won't make traditional media and cultural forms disappear. Cowen references a range of well-known performers and artists, from Marian Anderson to Metallica, but the book is written as an academic treatise, with all the form and content constraints that that implies. For those truly interested in the state of America's financial relationship to the arts scene, though, it's a fresh approach.
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A rare and much needed objective look at the topic of government funding for the arts. Avoiding the hyperbole often heard on both sides of the argument, Cowen offers a balanced overview of publicly-funded art. A must for the biased advocate.