When should arts funding be cut?

Governor Tim Pawlenty took a shot this afternoon at Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, saying “Minneapolis has been on an unbroken streak of 8 percent increases in property taxes, funding things like $50,000 artistic fountains.” This just after the governor announced $2.7 billion in “unallotments” to balance the state budget.

Interestingly enough, Pawlenty didn’t make any noticable cuts to the arts today. His strategy mainly affects local government, education and health and human services. But he does raise a good question: when is it inappropriate to fund the arts? Should arts grants be cut before funding for social services for the disabled or homeless? Is saving lives more important than funding art? If that were the case, it would seem we could always find places to put public money before allowing it to trickle down to artists.

The money for Minneapolis’ ten new drinking fountains comes from a designated public art fund. And it’s supposed to draw attention to issues surrounding clean drinking water, not just look cool. But considering the recession we’re in, could the half-million dollars be spent more wisely?