Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The NEA: Boondoggle Or Money Well Spent?

Remember the National Endowment for the Arts?

Those are the folks who spent taxpayer money on "artwork" by
Andre Serrano ("Piss Christ") and the late Robert Mapplethorpe's homoerotic photography.

Now the NEA is back
in a big way with $124 million earmarked for this year and $128 million for next year:
An all-night reading at a local Krispy Kreme of American author John Steinbeck's 1939 classic "The Grapes of Wrath" -- literature amid chocolate iced glazed crullers -- may not rival an afternoon at your local library for quiet.

But even as Dana Gioia, the National Endowment for the Arts' chairman, announces 117 new cities chosen to participate in the agency's "Big Read" program this year, that's what you hear: Quiet.

In fact, Dana Gioia promises the Big Read will be in 400 U.S. cities next year, meaning town-wide celebrations of works by American writers Zora Neale Hurston, Ernest Hemingway, Harper Lee, Ray Bradbury, Amy Tan and others will be in all 50 states and in every congressional district.

Four international Big Read programs are coming online next year in Mexico, Russia, Egypt and China.
There's much more to read in the whole thing.

While I like the idea of promoting community-wide reading efforts and the fine and performing arts as much as the next person, I'm just not sure that in this time or war and record deficit spending if this is really the best expenditure of such a large amount taxpayers' money.

So.... is the "bigger and better" National Endowment for the Arts simply a never-ending boondoggle or a wise investment in our nation's cultural heritage?

You make the call.
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