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The Arts Policies of Presidential Candidates


Yesterday George Fifield sent along a link to the Arts Action Fund's ArtVote website, which lists the arts positions of the various presidential candidates. As the field has narrowed, there are really only three or four that are relevant, but they are definitely worth checking out.

On the Democratic side, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama offer fairly comprehensive overview statements regarding their positions. Clinton hits all the key issues for the creative economy: the NEA, the NEH, Arts Education, a Cultural Exchange, and Public Broadcasting. Obama offers two separate documents, first touting specific achievements in Illinois, and a second one pushing Education, Cultural Exchange, Health Care and Tax Fairness for Artists.

While both Democratic candidates offer relatively short papers (both Clinton's and Obama's comprehensive papers are 2 pages) - Obama's offerings hit on some of the more contemporary issues for artists. As we have seen in Massachusetts recently, tax laws and health care are major issue for artists and changes in the law on these fronts can have immediate impact. Clinton's top-down approach is valid, but it emphasizes the same major institutions that the federal government has always supported.

I think George's summary is accurate:

[W]hile Hillary professes general support for the NEA, Obama promises an increase in funding. And Obama supports the Artist-Museum Partnership Act, which addresses a long time inequity in the tax code concerning artist's donations of their own work to charitable organizations. And he talks about artist's health care. By my reckoning, Obama leads here by a nose, but they're pretty close.

On the Republican side, John McCain offers NO arts policy while Mike Huckabee focuses on the standard conservative issues, such as the economy and jobs. One bullet point states: "Our future economy depends on a creative generation."

Huckabee elaborates:

We all know the cliché of thinking outside the box: I want our children to be so creative that they think outside the cardboard factory. Art and music are as important as math and science because the dreamers and visionaries among us take the rough straw of an idea and spin it into the gold of new businesses and jobs. It is as important to identify and encourage children with artistic talent as it is those with athletic ability. Our future economy depends on a creative generation.

Music has always been an important part of my life. I still play bass guitar in my band, Capitol Offense.

ArtVote lists no policy for the arts from Senator John McCain. A visit to his website offers no clarification, either. Listed under the issues McCain wants to address as a presidential candiate, one will find "Tax & Economics, Government Spending, Iraq, Health Care, Human Dignity, Veterans, Border Security, Ethics Reform, National Security, Environment, Second Amendment" but no link for any arts policy.

As the presidential race narrows and each party settles on their candidate, it is important to remember that each potential leader will bring a different perspective on how to deal with the arts. Big RED & Shiny does not endorse any candidate, but encourages our readers to make themselves aware of each candidate's position and factor the arts in their vote, along with all of the other major issues of the day.

Candidate positions (via ArtVote -- all PDF files):
Mike Huckabee's position on the arts
Hillary Clinton's position on the arts
Barack Obama's position on the arts

John McCain's website

About Author

Matthew Nash is the founder of Big Red & Shiny. He is Associate Professor of Photography and New Media at the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University and was the 2011-12 Chair of the University Faculty Assembly. Nash is half of the artist collaborative Harvey Loves Harvey, who are currently represented by Gallery Kayafas in Boston and have exhibited in numerous venues since 1992.

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