Eyes over the border


November 7, 2008



Now that it's finally over we can talk about it. Believe me, Canadians were paying attention, and now that it's a done deal there's a bit of street dancing up here. But, goodness knows, Barack Obama's got a lot on his plate.

Of interest is Obama's cultural program. He's apparently been working on it for a couple of years, since long before his nomination. For a guy who writes poetry and consults with Bruce Springsteen and Jay-Z, it probably came naturally to form that panel of active professional artists to advise him.

Obama wants to increase funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and change the Federal Tax Code for artists. He has ideas like sending out "Artists Corps" to underprivileged schools and communities, expansion of public-private partnerships to increase cultural education programs, cultural diplomacy and the inclusion of foreign talent, less inward-looking xenophobia all 'round, as well as health care for artists.

Obama also backs Senator Patrick Leahy's "Artist-Museum Partnership Act," allowing artists to deduct the fair market value of work given to charitable institutions. We might hope that this enlightenment may shine on fundraisers too.

Here in Canada, if you want to donate your painting to raise cash for a favorite charity, you can get a "tax receipt" all right, but the government wants you to pretend you sold the work, take the amount into income, and then deduct it. The result is a wash--extra paper-shuffling for accountants, misery and dismay for both artists and charities. We don't get no respect, eh?

Positive change in this last area would do wonders for charities. Fundraisers would attract better and more valuable art, raise standards, and would give relief to perpetually beleaguered artists. Think of the value to educational institutions alone.

Canada--that great nation somewhere north of Detroit known for its regular, south-sweeping cold fronts, is watching carefully. So are our American cousins. "It is unprecedented," says Robert L. Lynch, CEO of "Americans for the Arts," a Washington-based arts advocacy group. "No presidential candidate in recent times has addressed cultural issues in such detail."

Best regards,

Robert

PS: "Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek." (Barack Obama)

Esoterica: Government involvement in the arts is like the porridge in the Goldilocks-Three Bears story. It has to be "just right." Obama is brainy enough to get the support going toward education so that young people begin to know and appreciate the arts once more. Then, perhaps sometime later, free enterprise can truly kick in--yep, it works in the arts too. Lest we forget. Oh, and by the way--Congratulations, Barack Obama.



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(c) Copyright 2008 Robert Genn. If you wish to copy this material to other publications or mail lists, please ask for permission by writing rgenn@saraphina.com. Thanks for your friendship.




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