Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Federal Theatre Project

There has been news of Barak Obama wanting to start some public arts projects to help promote arts and education while providing employment though our tough economic times. It's triple edged benefits allow us to provide greater arts education, increase arts awareness that will hopefully continue in our nation's schools, and provide employment. And while MusicianCorps sounds like a great idea, there are still many reasons to be cautious about the program and its ideas. But as the politicians weigh the pros and cons, let us take a look back at the Great Depression and the Federal Theatre Project.

This program too had pros and cons. The most visible benefit was giving artists the ability to work on their material and be employed by so doing so. This time and resources launched the careers of many of America's influential Theatre minds that would emerge over the following decades. Much like the McArthur Genius Grant, the ability to have the time and freedom to devote to their art is invaluable for any culture.

One place where the project failed to deliver was in its attempt to develop a National Theatre. While it is sad that this never reached fruition, the sadder part was the use of the project as propaganda. The government was able to control who was writing for the project and what they were writing about. Eventually a too leftist feeling forced Congress to pull the plug in 1939 and deny funding.

So as we start working on an ArtistCorp, we have to be very careful about what we are investing in. We are at a time of crisis - both for our arts community in the wake of the last administration and the state of the Nation's economy. If we take the time to be thoughtful and invest wisely, we have the opportunity to make some really meaningful changes. We are standing on the edge of something big - hopefully we will make the most of it.

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