Economic Stimulus Through the Industrial Arts


Metamodern Economy. Economic Stimulus with the Industrial Arts

“Is Art the only industry in America that doesn’t receive subsidies?”


By Allen Sands
Frames for screen printing (above)

Our economic stimulus initiatives and subsidies provide a wide umbrella protecting many industries in a weak economy. Then there’s the Arts. Art is often considered a superfluous expense when budgeting compared to other industries and rarely considered an industry by most Americans to begin with. If funding for the arts is to be less controversial, then perhaps some of those subsidies might be pointed in the direction of redeveloping the Industrial Arts as another means to stimulate the economy. The Industrial Arts have been neglected in America for years, considering how many manufacturing jobs have been farmed out for the benefit of the industries we already subsidize.

Art. Everybody loves it and everybody wants it, but we spend billions of taxpayer dollars on subsidies to big energy and other industries, mature industries that are making record profits. These are the industries that we bail out with our free market economy and our economic stimulus packages. Records show the U.S. has been subsidizing the fossil fuel (coal) industry since as far back as 1789. Is Art the only industry in America that doesn’t receive subsidies?

Listed are ten industries subsidized by U.S. taxpayers. It’s important to note that these industries’ top recipients are successful and mature multinational corporations and not smaller domestic manufacturers. It would be fair to question how many of the corporations listed below truly need economic stimulus.

1. Aviation Industry (Boeing)
2. Automotive Industry (General Motors)
3. Oil Industry (Royal Dutch Shell)
4. Chemical Industry (Dow Chemical)
5. Financial Industry (Goldman Sachs)
6. Artificial Intelligence/ IT industry (Google)
7. Entertainment Industry (Walt Disney)
8. Retail Industry (Wal-Mart)
9. Fashion/Apparel Industry (Abercrombie and Fitch)
10. Home Furnishing Industry (Bed, Bath & Beyond)

Art. What’s the first thing that comes to mind? A museum; a famous painting or sculpture? A controversial piece of work that might breach someone’s moral parameters? Quite so, but near the periphery of the big picture is another classification; the Industrial Arts. And to these should come some focus, because within that realm exists a huge world of manufacturing and economic growth.

As much as we claim to have a capitalist free market economy evidence shows the contrary. Through ordinary citizens corporations are able to privatize their profits while socializing their risks. “Sounds an awful lot like socialism to me.” Actually not true socialism but pro-business neo-liberal capitalism hiding behind the facade of free enterprise. We’ve provided corporate welfare in the billions to fossil fuels, private defense contractors, and agriculture; even subsidizing the cotton industry in Brazil, but little to nothing for our industrial artists here at home.

The Metamodern Economy. Economic Stimulus: The Industrial Arts.
3D Printing is a relatively young industry that’s bringing a wide selection of new and innovative manufacturing techniques to the Industrial Arts.

Our education system puts little emphasis on art as anything more than a hobby. Education is an important part of our development and an important factor in generating economic stimulus for the future, but art is not considered an important part of our economy. In addition to that, we’ve severed partnerships between the vocational and public school systems and turned our industrial art curriculum over to privately owned technical schools.

It stands to reason why the arts are not subsidized like other industries when it’s regarded as having no economic value in our public education. When it becomes time to tighten the belts through austerity programs, art programming is usually the first to go for the middle class and their students while massive subsidies to mature industries continue unabated.

Art gets subsidized one might say, through grants. That’s true, but most grants accessible to the working artist usually add up to a couple thousand dollars unless they spend months composing a grant application for something that might cover any real expenses. Public and industrial arts funding pales in comparison to corporate funding and the only application process required for that is a round of golf with your senator.

According to their report published in 2012, the National Endowment for the Arts was allocated 146 million by the two subcommittees overseeing the U.S. Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. 80% of that went to fund grants for artists. The NEA is not the only entity or institution that supports the professional development of artists, but it is where the lion’s share of public arts funding originates. Corporate subsidies allocated through federal spending in that same fiscal year, according to the Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation and Forbes amounted to an estimated 100 billion dollars.

When we talk about the arts in conjunction with more Libertarian ideals, some artists and art organizations are opposed to NEA or government funding for obvious reasons. Once you become dependent on the institution you are also restrained by a certain amount of public oversight and possible censorship; the antithesis of free expression.

Metamodern Economy. Industrial ArtsMapplethorpe. Bad day for the NEA. The “Perfect Moment” exhibition originating in Philadelphia, PA enraged conservative Senator Jesse Helms and brought heavy scrutiny to federally funded art programs.

Some consider the arts and the NEA unworthy of any public funding at all, including those who sponsor legislation favoring corporate welfare: subsidies, tax incentives and bailouts to the private sector. There are not many offices lobbying for artists on ‘K’ Street these days. Since the inception of NAFTA and the EPA many of the industrial arts have become nearly extinct in America.

Artists might appreciate the irony of economic stimulus on the way home from delivering their grant applications when they stop to pump some subsidized fuel into their subsidized automobiles, on the commercial property that received subsidies and tax breaks, that hosts the grocery store where they’ll purchase their subsidized agriculture, but not before they stop to pick up some used sweatshop jeans made with subsidized cotton. And through it all wonder how they can afford it, on lower wages that often have to be subsidized by the tax payer.

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