Even when times are good, fiscal conservatives often rail against public spending for the arts -- because, apparently, life would be better if we lived in a joyless, monochromatic society modeled on George Orwell's 1984. And when the economy turns south, such arguments only intensify. Given that, the only surprising thing about the Independence Institute's latest report on the subject, a Todd Shepherd piece entitled "Facing $120M Budget Shortfall, Denver Presses Forward with $4M in Artwork Spending," is that it wasn't published months ago.
Shepherd points out that trimming the art budget wasn't presented as an option in a survey asking locals what programs they'd eliminate to help bridge the budget ravine -- but Eric Brown, speaking for Mayor John Hickenlooper, insists that the omission had nothing to do with a preference for buying new sculptures over maintaining current rec-center fees. According to him, "The public art program is set by ordinance from capital projects funding and would require City Council action to change the funding.... Even if the art funding was eliminated, that money would remain in the construction budget for capital improvements and would not go back into the general fund." Nonetheless, numerous folks dutifully quoted by Shepherd suggested art cuts in the write-in portion of the aforementioned form. One commenter declared, "Stop paying for some of the planet's ugliest Art!!!"
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Maybe if the city ponied up for some nice, Norman Rockwell-type stuff, he might feel differently.