More thoughts on the arts’ place in economic stimulus from Robin Bronk at the Huggington Post here.
In these times of economic crisis, it seems only rational that we should look back at our history to review what works if we want to create jobs and secure a strong economic legacy for future generations.
When faced with a collapsing economy, President Franklin Roosevelt tried to put Americans in all lines of work back on the job. Instead of singling out artists as somehow frivolous and unimportant to our nation’s economy, he instituted a host of programs designed to put federal funds into the arts, employing America’s creative talent and leaving a cultural legacy that endures still today.
The highpoint of this commitment was the Works Progress Administration’s Federal One program, which put thousands of Americans to work in the arts. The government program was a lifeline for Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Orson Welles, Burt Lancaster, Sidney Lumet, Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, Studs Terkel, John Cheever, Saul Bellow, and thousands of other artists across the country.
These programs created much-needed jobs in the immediate term, but they did much more. They fostered great talents that otherwise may have been lost. The work of the many great artists supported by the government in the 1930s still benefits us today. Their contributions to our culture endure, and their successful careers resulted in employment for many others in the years that followed.