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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Instrumentalities of Cultural Policy

In each of these areas of activity, policy-makers have a variety of instrumentalities at their disposal.
  • Grants and awards are far and away the most popular methods of implementing cultural policy in the U.S. and some other countries. Arts agencies in the U.S.A. have tended to adopt the instrumentalities of private patronage, particularly the gift of a sum of money to a selected artist or institution.
  • Employment and job creation have been used here at certain historical moments, particularly during the Works Progress Adminstration (WPA) of President Franklin Roosevelt's "New Deal" and the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) President Richard Nixon put into effect. In both these cases, the main intention was to take people off relief rolls and put them to work; someone had the secondary idea of using these job creation programs to employ artists. Artists may also be employed directly to fulfill commissions for works of art, act as agents of cultural preservation or animation, as teachers, or as arts administrators.
  • Cultural facilities of some kind are always provided, if only the basics of transportation and security. Libraries are a key example of providing public cultural facilities, expressing the value of democratic access to diverse written materials unaffordable to any but the wealthiest of private collectors. Public performance and studio space, and certain kinds of heavy equipment -- kilns, photographic labs, light and sound equipment -- can be provided so that each individual or group is not required to purchase these items anew. While grants often finance end products, providing facilities is a way to support cultural creation by furnishing the means.
  • Similarly, policy can provide for services. Central banks of theatrical scripts, costumes, scenery and equipment can be provided to keep individual production costs low. Printing services can be subsidized to make low-cost reproduction available for books, posters and periodicals. Legal aid for creators can be financed to ensure protection of their rights against claims from potential exploiters. The same is true of medical aid designed to monitor the many health hazards in artists' materials. Direct training comes under this heading, as does providing loans to creative workers unable to obtain traditional bank financing.
  • Finally, laws and regulations are powerful tools of cultural policy. Regulations can control the amount of imported cultural product and finance an indigenous film industry, as it has in Canada, Belgium and Australia. Some nations have enacted requirements that broadcast outlets and cinemas exhibit a certain percentage of domestically-produced programming. The regulations governing tax deductibility have had an enormous impact on the financing of culture in the U.S.A. The judiciary sets standards for obscenity in material broadcast, published or exhibited; many other kinds of judicial rulings deal with cultural issues, even when these are not treated as such. Zoning, copyright laws, laws governing the educational system -- these and many more are key to any nation's cultural policy.

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