Nonprofit Newswire | A Protest Against Britain’s New Arts-Funding Model

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March 4, 2010; ArtForum | When we learned earlier this year that European governments were keen to purge their budgets of arts organizations—or, at least considerably scale back their support—it was clear that the move would not be a popular one. Phrases like “Americanization” and “U.S.-style philanthropy” were dropped, and even the ghost of Margaret Thatcher was raised by one French organizer. The New York Times pointed out the obvious—that this trend of diminished government funding of the arts happened slowly, over decades, but even decades isn’t enough time to develop a culture of philanthropy, or even to codify tax incentives for philanthropic giving, which are still nascent in some European nations. A recent Guardian op-ed highlighted this point: “The US has a philanthropic tradition, embedded in its culture. We do not; nor can it be created in the span of a parliament,” writes Charlotte Higgins. But Higgins decries the downside of a U.S.-style tax-incentivized philanthropic culture, in which arts institutions are governed by and serve the wealthy as opposed to the “progressive vision of civic culture and the people’s shared stewardship” that is derived from government or publicly supported arts. The resistance to cuts in government funding for the arts in the UK is not just a response to the loss of resources, but to the possibility that the arts will drift into ethos of the U.S. philanthropic culture.—James David Morgan