As summer gears up, I look forward to attending concerts at the Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago’s Grant Park.  These free concerts are generally packed—as many as 10,000 people in the seats and on the lawn to listen, not to some superstar act from out of town, but to our own homegrown Grant Park Orchestra.

Afterwards I, and thousands of others, walk around the marvelous open museum that is Millennium Park, again, free.  As it should be. Free, publicly supported arts are a vital recreational option during an economic crisis, or any time. Viewing something unhampered by a commercial motive is critical to a thinking society.

Unfortunately, I will be unable go to the Art Institute, a formerly dirt cheap, publicly funded museum operating rent free on public land, because they had to raise their entry fee to punitive rates.

They, and hundreds of other arts organizations, libraries, and schools all over the state and the country had to do this because while local, state and municipal governments are busy shoveling billions of dollars into gaping maws of big industry, cutting THEIR taxes and offering THEM subsidies, things that people use and need are slashed out of existence.

Are legislators even remotely aware of the impact of the arts and education on the economy?  Of study after study after economic study demonstrating the multiplier effect on towns of a vibrant arts community and educated populace?  Do they not realize that there are families, like mine, whose entire subsistence derives from their jobs in arts and culture?  Do our jobs not count somehow, because they don’t fit a narrow definition of “business,” meaning profit-driven and privately owned? I dunno, my work feels like a job to me! Don’t even get me started on what our society is doing to our formerly unsurpassed public schools, roads, libraries, civic services and public health facilities.  But hey, thank god the banks are doing okay again! Better make sure Apple gets its tax break!

Although, contrary to the myth of “socialized” support, government funding in this country could never have been described as anything larger than pitiful, the latest threats of cuts and closures moves us well over into scandalous.   Every industrialized, wealthy nation in the world, in the entire world, supports its artists through heavy subsidies.  In this country, the weak-willed, fraidy-cat, ball-less idiots who call themselves our elected officials seem to think nothing of feeding garbage to the ill-informed masses (ill-informed because we don’t fund education or public media either), and then decimating only the programs that they perceive have little potential of lining their own pockets with campaign cash.  Better put that money into prisons so you can just lock us all up.  But be sure not to fund any actual rehab or educational services there! Oh, wait, you don’t need my reminder on that, because that was already cut too.

My job is a job. My industry is an industry and my business is a business. Reducing subsidies will force out the people it’s supposed to serve, which would be, well, the people.

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