The Non-Rich Support The Arts Too

For a while now, I have been reading Henry Fogel’s On The Record blog.  The other day, Mr. Fogel posted a story that I can’t help but add my two cents as well.  In a recent post, Mr. Fogel commented regarding a column published on December 21, 2008 in The New York Times by Nicholas D. Kristof who insinuated that the arts are for “rich folk”.  Here is a segment of from Kristof’s column also quoted by Fogel:

“…liberal donations frequently sustain art museums, symphonies, schools and universities that cater to the well-off. (It’s great to support the arts and education, but they’re not the same as charity for the needy. And some research suggests that donations to education actually increase inequality because they go mostly to elite institutions attended by the wealthy.”)

Please feel free to read all of Mr. Fogel’s commentary here.

I have to agree with much of what Mr. Fogel said on many accounts.  First off, as a recipient of a performance scholarship, and coming from anything but a “rich” family, this comment is extremely offensive.  I have already written about how music saved my life as a teen, but to suggest that scholarships are only given to the fortunate is preposterous.

Second, perhaps it is true that the rich give more to such arts institutions.  Maybe that has something to with us “non-rich” folk having little to spare. (Hello, moron!!) Especially, since knuckleheads in government and Wall Street have basically been sucking us dry for every penny these days.  However, instead of donating, every time someone from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra calls my wife and I for a donation, we simply explain our donation comes in the form of an annual subscription.  Conservatives may choose to give more, but they also abuse tax incentives as well.  Often times, when I give, I leave out the tax incentives.  And, let’s not forget the socioeconomic divide between conservatives and liberals.  I don’t have the numbers to prove this, but I think conservatives have more cash flow than liberals.

It is absolutely true that more arts organizations are changing their tune by reaching out to those who don’t have a comprehensive knowledge about the respective discipline – art, music, theatre, dance, etc.  There is indeed a growing shift in the arts community to become more involved and find common ground with everyone.  In fact, at the time I completed my MS in Integrated Marketing Communications, I interviewed for a job that was a community service oriented role at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  I didn’t get the job (that is a conversation for another day), but that is besides the point.  Bottom line, this substantiates what Mr. Fogel is discussing about orchestras devoting more time and resources to reaching out to their community.

To insinuate the arts are for the rich is beyond ridiculous and rather insulting on many levels.  To insinuate that conservatives also give more than liberals is also absurd.  I have spoken to a few people here and there who would love to donate money to support, not just orchestras, but all the arts.  I know I certainly would. (Please review my “sucking us dry” comment earlier to know why I don’t.)

Here is Mr. Kristoff’s Column.

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