The [National Endowment for the Arts’s] process for cultivating art is informed by standards set by universities and critical theorists. Those standards of what qualify as “acceptable” contemporary art seem to be any phenomena that offends an individual’s inherent aesthetic disposition. Preferential treatment is given to those works that 1) are able to evoke the most unpleasant reaction and 2) are created with the least amount of discernible purpose.I wonder, though, if the money is less inefficiently wasted than the public money on stadium subsidies.
Another aspect of this decline is that the [endowment] has been largely unsuccessful in fostering new interest in existing masterpieces. One example of this is evidenced by a 1977 survey showing that in the top ten metropolitan areas, more people attended the opera than football games. Think about that for a second. Of course these days you could combine opera attendance with symphony and publicly financed modern-art museum attendance all together and it would barely register against football. That decline is the result of misguided policies by a select few cultural elites at universities, in the press, and of course at the NEA.There might be some truth to that. I am no fan of tenure music, but then, perhaps, the people in the visual and performing arts world are correct to think about more casual settings for their product.