Our goal should be a budget of 300 million dollars for the NEA. That is, as I've stated, just about a single dollar for the 300 million people who live in the United States.
To me, this is not just for the artist's themselves, its for the culture. In a nation that speaks of values and spirtualism whenever it butters its toast, it is a shame to not treat the arts as a leisure activity, but an essential to a culture that speaks of the humanities and proports to have a kind, questioning, democratic population.
This helps remove the idea that the arts are valuable from the value of the dollar. The dollar is a fickle master, and it favors what is sold, what is marketed and often what is easily palatable to the most number of people. It is based on demographics, the creation of trends, and in the invention of needs that simply often don't truly exist. It thrives on excess, not necessity.
The arts are a necessity. They are the expression of the many religions, souls, ideas and histories of individuals, and the more free the arts become, the more our cultural discourse rises. It aids democracy, and I would argue (and will) that it attacks the social ails that we often use guns, police and prisons to solve.
The simple fact is 300 million dollars is more than an increase in investment; it is a statement that our country values the arts and views them as important for the citizenry. It is often argued that the less arts funding the government hands out, the more private companies and citizens will contribute. Instead, I believe a statement from the highest levels that the arts are just as valuable as the market will begin a change in the outlook of the culture. It will encourage and enable private citizens and companies to let the arts further into their worldview; it will create a sense that money for the arts is investment in a stronger people.
- Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.