The Playgoer: Culture without Portfolio

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Culture without Portfolio

Slate's "Explainer" (always a fun "ever wonder..." section) takes on the question of, What is a Ministry of Culture and why the US doesn't have one. After surveying examples from around the world,

So, why doesn't the United States have a ministry of culture? For one thing, arts in the United States are largely privately funded, and the art world is less dependent on state support. A bunch of federal agencies perform the functions given to ministries of culture in other countries. That's not to say the idea for a ministry of culture—or something like it—hasn't been proposed. In 1859, President James Buchanan appointed a National Arts Commission, but it disbanded after two years. Teddy Roosevelt made a similar attempt 50 years later, and in 1937, during a fit of New Deal-fueled government expansion, a New York congressman introduced legislation to create a Department of Science, Art, and Literature, but the proposal never got beyond committee. Subsequent efforts to create a centralized cultural agency were hampered at least in part by negative associations with Nazi propaganda and "cultural planning" in the USSR.
Um, about that "the art world is less dependent on state support" bit...Let's please remember that's not by choice.

1 comment:

Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Apart from the fact that we simply don't have "ministries," wouldn't our National Endowment for the Arts count as the closest approximation to such a state-run organization?