Why not lottery money for the arts?
As 2008 grinds to a halt, leaving an awful wake of bad economic news, and with 2009 looking just as bleak, the cultural world is feeling more vulnerable than ever. Yesterday (I know I'm late, but I'm still on vacation), Kennedy Center president Michael Kaiser wrote a typically well-argued op-ed piece in the Washington Post calling for some sort of bailout for the arts. I'd love to see that happen, but I certainly won't hold my breath.
It would probably take an organized action by hundreds of arts organizations and thousands of arts patrons to get the attention of the politicians. Such an action might help more people to realize what this country will be losing, how much long-term damage to our internal worth this country will suffer if opera and ballet companies, orchestras and theater troupes get squeezed out by the economy.
Meanwhile, I can't help but wonder about all that money gathered in so many states every week by lotteries, supposedly in support of education. Personally, I have my doubts about how much of that money actually gets to schools and makes a real difference in their quality, but I know that even modest amounts of cash can do wonders for an arts group. So why not, during these unusually tough times, set aside a decent percentage, say 25 percent, of lottery-generated money to the arts? After all, those groups invariably have educational/outreach programs, which are in jeapardy when budgets shrink, so this kind of funding would still help fulfill the supposed educational mission of lotteries. In the U.K., lottery revenue has helped to build theaters and underwrite orchestras, operas, museums and more. I think it's time to explore the possibilities here.