Does money help or hurt creativity?

A colleague forwarded along this interesting article from BBC News which asks whether hard times inspire great art. The piece was inspired by the announcement that the UK’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport is preparing for a departmental budget cut of 25% to 30%, leading Tate Director Nicholas Serota to call this the start of “the greatest crisis in the arts and heritage since government funding began in 1940.”

But, writer Jon Kelly posits, doesn’t hardship result in the best art?

A sluggish economy and harsh spending cuts might mean tough times are ahead for most of us, but the romantic narrative of the impoverished poet, musician or painter might lead us to expect that the cultural world could at least anticipate a period of creative fulfilment.

While numerous artists and analysts cast their votes for and against, I was most struck by the comment of Dr Tiffany Jenkins, a cultural sociologist and visiting fellow at the London School of Economics. Jenkins believes “public subsidy has done a great deal to stifle artists, having been often tied to agendas such as increasing community cohesion and forging the regeneration of deprived areas.”

In other words, the money comes with strings attached, often reining in or forcing the direction of the art.

This is an idea I often hear debated in the Twin Cities, often by artists visiting from elsewhere. Minnesota foundations, government, private companies and individuals are all incredibly generous when it comes to giving to the arts, and the Minnesota arts scene is huge as a result. But is the art that’s produced here as edgy or as challenging as it could be? Is the relative comfort of the local arts scene making us soft?

I welcome your thoughts.

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