“When artists get cash, they spend it both quickly and carefully.”

Jackson Pollock entering his studio. From the Smithsonian Archives.

Felix Salmon writes in this month’s issue of The Atlantic that a good way to jump start the economy would be to pay the artists, who are among the very poorest citizens. “We�re living in a newly frugal world. But the rediscovered values of thrift and moderation should apply to the government as much as they do to households. No more trillion-dollar misadventures abroad: we need to spend money at home, and we need to get the maximum bang for our buck. If the Obama administration is serious about stimulating the economy and creating as many new jobs as possible, one choice is clear: it should announce a massive increase in federal arts funding. Artists are among the very poorest citizens. When they get cash, they spend it both quickly and carefully.

“That�s not what most recipients of federal largesse do, but it happens to be exactly what economists look for in any stimulus package. Arts spending is fantastic at creating employment: for every $30,000 or so spent on the arts, one more person gets a job, compared with about $1 million if you�re building a road or hospital. And such spending has a truly lasting benefit: the Works Progress Administration didn�t just create murals, it subsidized enormous leaps in graphic design, in theater (including America�s first all-black production of Macbeth), and in fine art. One painter lived off the WPA�s Federal Art Project for eight years before finally getting his first solo show in 1943. Maybe a similar program today could produce America�s next Jackson Pollock.”


  1. I just discovered your blog and find the level of writing and choice of subjects very substantive. I may make it a project to read all your archived posts! Thank you for sharing this part of you.

  2. Great point to post on Sharon. This agenda is just as relevant in Australia from my viewpoint!
    Wonderful Blog I must also say.

  3. I actually find the idea horrendous…Some forms of art will be favored and others denied due to politics.

    "Artists are among the very poorest citizens. When they get cash, they spend it both quickly and carefully."…First, what a sweeping generalization. Second, just because artists are hip doesn't mean that Robin Hood economics will work any better than it has in the past.

    It is my view that the struggle artists face is the crucible that creates better work.

  4. I like this idea too. Artists, and I can only speak for the US, get fleeced at every turn, and they deserve some kind of help at least in the way of opening up and encouraging the communities they live in to look at art. The idea about paying artists would be kind of like tricle down economics via arts funding.

    The above comment about some art being favored due to politics, that would be the case no matter what, paying artists or not paying them. That's just the way the world turns.

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