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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Artless critique

Columnists are entitled to their political viewpoints. That's part of the game. They are not entitled to getting the facts wrong, when they bother researching at all.

And that's exactly what Herald business columnist Scott Van Voorhis is guilty of in his political screed suggesting Rep. Dan Bosley of North Adams and Sen. Stan Rosenberg of Amherst are planning a raid on the treasury now that liberal spendthrift Deval Patrick is taking office.

Whether it is outright sloppy reporting (its the Massachusetts Cultural Council not Arts Council) to the declaration that Bosley and Rosenberg are planning a "massive cash injection into high-brow museums and cultural institutions," the column is poorly conceived and executed.

Some basic facts, courtesy of the MCC, not a "leading cheerleader group" but rather an invisible and largely ineffective state agency that spends the bulk of its grant dollars on small local arts, humanities and education groups to help them provide local programs.
  • Nearly 80 percent of Massachusetts residents think it is important to live in a community in which the corporations actively support the arts.

  • Over 90 percent of Massachusetts residents favor using state funds to support arts education. Nearly 80 percent favor using state funds to support cultural organizations.

  • Nationwide, 90 percent of people aware of artists in their local community favor supporting these artists.
There's also ample evidence that arts, culture and tourism are some of the most effective tools available to revive local communities and economies. No less a lefty-leaning organization as the New England Council supports an albeit poorly advertised Creative Economy Initiative as a community development tool.

Then there is the motivation of Bosley and Rosenberg. Both represent areas of the state where the passage of time has eliminated or eroded their economic base -- manufacturing and agriculture respectively.

In their place, vibrant arts communities (hey Scott, ever hear of Tanglewood or Mass MOCA?) and higher education has moved in to support what many agree is a strong quality of life, hundreds of miles away from Boston.

One way to boost those local efforts is the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund, overwhelmingly approved by the Legislature over the veto of Mitt Romney. Using the hotel-motel tax (Scott, that's largely paid by people from out of state), the fund would provide matching grants and loans to enable local groups to renovate deteriorating cultural facilities from Pittsfield to Provincetown.

There are stringent guidelines to prevent a Boston Symphony Orchestra or Museum of Fine Arts from dominating the pool for operating money or facilities repair.

Arts funding took it on the chin in Massachusetts during the downturn and there is a definite logic to making sure there is adequate mental health care before funding the arts. But there is a knee-jerk anti-elitist "logic" in critics like Van Voorhis who label all arts funding as pure pork.

Van Voorhis is entitled to his opinion. But he should at least check out the facts before launching an uneducated and ill-informed screed.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Arts funding? Renovating deteriorating cultural facilities? Oh, that's it! That's the final straw! I'm moving to Mississippi! Oh, wait, Mississippi probably provides more cultural funding than we do.

The Herald is a truly amazing newspaper.

December 02, 2006 6:43 PM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

On a per capita basis, you may be right about Mississippi. Check it out at http://www.arts.state.ms.us/. I know you are right about the Herald!

December 03, 2006 9:54 AM  

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