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 favourite 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.”
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.
Planning to secede
by Deborah Buchanan, Adel, GA, USA
Being an artist does not preclude being a liberal. Up until today, I have looked forward to reading your letters, well written, timely, and food for thought. I live in the south, and we may secede after this election. A LOT of us would appreciate it if you would leave politics out of your commentary. Thank you for considering this.
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Inspiring the children
by Jeanne Pfister, Kaukauna, WI, USA
I’m so proud to be an American! I’ve worked diligently and financially for the success of Barack Obama. I have watched several Presidential elections and NEVER have I seen such an outpouring of absolute glee from around the world. With intelligence, eloquence, humility and grace, Barack Obama has won the respect of our citizens. As a retired educator, who worked in the inner city schools of Milwaukee, WI, this election has done more to inspire multicultural children than any other motivating factor I can think of. I’m so glad I lived to see this day!
No longer ashamed
by Alan Feltus, Assisi, Italy
I thank you for this letter about Obama and his arts interests. We have waited and hoped for changes in the tax laws that would allow the artist who is donating works to silent auctions or nonprofit organizations to get a deduction while the wealthy collectors would get yet another tax break. I have donated works to art schools and other such organizations for a long time and resented the tax laws that treat us like — well I won’t write what I had in mind. Decades ago there was a lawyer named Bob Projansky, of Stony Point, New York who tried to get a bill passed that favored artists. It might have been a bother to collectors and dealers, as it included things like the artist would be informed of the changing of hands of his work. Maybe even a percentage of the sale in future sales. Wouldn’t that be nice? I like that you sent out this letter to your vast readership. Anyway, all of us, all our friends are excited about Obama’s extraordinary victory. I am now no longer ashamed and embarrassed to be an American over here in Italy.
(RG note) Thanks, Alan. I’ve been on boards looking at the idealistic concept of rewarding artists on re-sales. Nice idea, as you say, but I don’t think it will work and might be counter-productive and discouraging to collectorship. I think collectors who invest in an artist deserve to own full rights to the increase — or decrease — in the value of works. Further, managing such a system would be mighty cumbersome and would bring out the cheating instincts of collectors, gallerists and auctioneers.
Charitable sharing shows
by Tania Hanscom, Cambridge, ON, Canada
I enjoyed your article and couldn’t agree with you more regarding bringing the arts into the school system – I’m talking about ours in Canada. There is so little now for the kids to aspire to and get excited about. It’s basically “crafts.” I wanted to ask your opinion on something – I met the Senior Development officer of the Cambridge Memorial Hospital Foundation. I spoke with her about a fundraising project that would involve the works of local artists. The idea is to display and then put them up for auction. The artists would make a bit, and get some good exposure. The hospital stands to gain as well. Do you think this is a good idea?
(RG note) Thanks, Tania. Sharing income from charitable art shows is certainly viable. Artists can opt for 50% of the net or as little as 10%. When artists are seen as benefactors rather than dependents, they rise to a new level. Even single donations that are totally buckshee to the charity never fail to create goodwill and further joy. It’s good for the community and it’s good Karma.
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The illusion of freedom
by Jon Conkey, Mora, NM, USA
Yep, Obama will certainly fuel the arts, but he may well destroy the industries and folks who buy their art; leaving artists as ‘street-artists’ pushing their crafts. He does not talk about “invention as art,” and those who discover great devices will most likely “keep them quiet,” for fear of the “New World” stealing their “art” from underneath them through “legal means” and “reverse engineering” to directly avoid patent royalty payment. His vision is not unique, it is called Europe, and not everyone here believes Europe has the answers to America’s problems, and most here do not care for the EU, UN, G8, WHO, IMF, SALT, etc. controlling USA’s interests without our people’s support. But, then again, freedom is an illusion to most.
The rebirth of understanding
by Coulter Watt, Quakertown, PA, USA
Above all the election of Barak Obama has restored my faith in America and that we can overcome the difficult issues before this nation. Creative minds are at the root of all good changes, be it the economy, the energy issue, the environment or the celebration of the arts in the White House. But, mostly I look forward to a President who sees strength in talking with all political leaders of the world in an effort to understand one another and solve our differences peacefully.
Dancing in the streets
by Stefanie Graves, Paducah, KY, USA
Thanks so much for bringing all this information forward. I for one missed something along the way as I had no idea that this was part of his platform. Ask me about his healthcare program, ideas on the economy, and what he was going to do with taxes and I could have told you. But art? Just goes to show how jaded I’ve become, assuming that we could expect nothing more than the same. This news is added icing on the cake. By the way, we’re pretty much dancing in the streets down here too. What a time!
(RG note) Thanks, Stefanie. So far, more than three hundred subscribers have written and used the words “Dancing in the streets.”
Perils of big government
by John McCaskill, Kailua Kona, HI, USA
Most American citizens wish Barrack Obama success as our next president. However, a return to class warfare and a re-distribution of wealth may not necessarily be a good thing for artists. Under an Obama nation those that have traditionally supported the arts as collectors and through their foundations and charitable donations may find that they have a lot less to give. Do we really think the government is better at spending or sharing our money than we are?
Bonus for artists
by Vivian Capone, Coarsegold, CA, USA
Thank you for your informative letter. I must tell you that all your information regarding the Arts and Obama is news to artists in the U.S. I have not heard any of that and I do keep up with the news. Hopefully, you are not holding your breath as he has lots to prove first. Now, on the donating side of art, when I donate my paintings to a nonprofit or for charity, I can only deduct the tangible value: the frame, paper, and paint. I cannot deduct my work on the paper, which is intangible. So it would be a bonus for an artist to be of some value.
(RG note) Thanks, Vivian. I got most of my material for my letter from articles written by Jeremy Gerard, an editor of Bloomberg news. And while they have been widely published in the US and abroad, you can get some of it here. Also, some of the sites where the material appears, such as Toronto’s Globe and Mail, require you to pay to read the article. Free enterprise is alive and well in Canada.
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Special benefits for special artists
by Katy Allgeyer, High Point, NC,USA
I had a show in Berlin, Germany five years ago at a gallery owned by an American ex-pat. I learned that in that country artists are entitled to special benefits such as health insurance and pay little or no taxes whatsoever. Of course, the artists have to pass a rigorous registration process to become designated officially as artists, but once in, you’re supported to practice your art.
(RG note) Thanks, Katy. Trouble is, with this system, the way I see it, there are far too many deserving artists and far too few that can get “in.” Further, the selection process leans toward elitism, special interest groups and control by ideologues, academia, critics and over-educated mugwumps. Anointed “official” artists make it, and the great unwashed do not, nor are the unwashed any more collected by the general public. Government intervention in the arts is a tricky business and thoughts in that direction should be weighed with great care.
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by Elissa Gordon
No, it’s not OVER for half of America because we DO NOT want this man for our leader. I’m talking about a very important half of America — the majority of WORKING, TAX-PAYING Americans. Only because they were backed by millions of voting drones who sit around waiting for a handout, were the Democrats able to steal this election. By the way, as I picture “Canada watching,” I can’t help but notice your omission of BO’s socialistic plans for America. Let’s discuss how socialism works in Canada, then let’s talk about America. While I enjoy your musings on art, I am not interested in your musings on politics. Please remove me from your mailing list.
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Look around the world
by Tiit Raid, Fall Creek, Wisconsin, USA
I’m encouraged by Barack Obama’s words, “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.”
Many in America are thrilled with the change that is to come due to the election of Barack Obama as the next president. After eight years of idiotic and embarrassing leadership it will be a relief to have a leader who is intelligent and articulate and believable.
After the tragedy of 911 the American government squandered a great opportunity to ask some important questions about the conditions that brought such a disaster about. Instead, rather than seeking answers, they went about responding in the same crude manner as in the past, with might and aggression.
Brings to mind what Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Or, to put it another way, “Fight evil with evil, only evil wins.” I’m not sure who said the latter, but both statements say a lot.
Then, to have someone in a position of leadership who is willing to listen to artists is tremendously encouraging. If an international panel is ever formed to look into the problems of the world, artists and writers and poets and composers and philosophers should be included. For if this panel is limited to the usual combination of political and social and religious leaders it will never work in a complete and holistic way.
It seems to me that artists, and other creative people, are more connected with what makes everyday life ‘click.’ And are thus people who are more in touch with their thoughts and emotions and beliefs; and further, they understand more about what is happening in their mind and that ideas and concepts change over time as new information is gained from paying attention to what occurs in the process of living in the everyday. In other words, we need the help of people who are more consciously aware of what is taking place outwardly and inwardly.
If we go about doing things as we have in the past, with force and aggression, then real and meaningful change will never occur, and peace in the world will be impossible. And, if we treat art and artist as second class citizens, then we will continue on a blind path filled with insensitivity and crudeness, and we will not see the beauty of the everyday.
Observation of the world connects us to it. It is time to take a long look at what is around us, for if we don’t, we will continue to mistreat and abuse our own ‘living room’ which is the world.
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Enjoy the past comments below for Eyes over the border…
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.
That includes Liza Nicholson who wrote, “This almost made me laugh. What Barack’s ‘Cultural Program’ might look like scares me. Wow, he could take even more money from us to give us more art that looks like the disgusting things we had in the past. Remember the crucifix in the urine?”
And also Louis Noe who wrote, “Looking back is to see if we learned anything, looking forward is to see if we will learn more.”
And also Tamara Charland of South Lake Tahoe, CA, USA who wrote, “The outgoing administration’s effect on education and the arts these past 8 years has not been kind. The long dark cloudy tunnel of fear and intimidation sadly has left wounds and even some scars but soon those will heal thanks to the incoming administration.”
And also Larry Kirk of Chilliwack, BC, Canada who wrote, “There are far too many people in North America in positions of influence, that are of the opinion that the Arts are of not much importance.”
And also Connie Vlahoulis of SC, USA who wrote, “Please take off your rose colored glasses and dancing in the streets as the policies that are coming will further harm our art businesses.”
And also Amber Southard who wrote, “Your letter to me, though I am an aspiring artist, is not appropriate at this time. The next President has to deal with a world full of ugly customers, and he does not have the time to deal with these side issues.”
And also Osinojo Shoyemmy of Nigeria who wrote, “Nice to hear from you but I am not in the Canada region. I am in Africa living as an artist. Could you please tell me if I may be part of a charity from my distance? If so do let me know as soon as possible.”
And also Ron Andrea who wrote, “I am totally opposed to government involvement in the arts. When bureaucrats decide which artists get subsidized, art is politicized.”
And also Josh Blum of Stroudsburg, PA, USA who wrote, “An excellent link to see Obama’s ideas for the arts.”
And also Debbie Box who wrote, “Totally inappropriate email. Please remove me from your list.”