Rethinking How We Fund the Arts in America

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To the Editor:

Re “To Save Museums, Treat Them Like Highways,” by Laura Raicovich and Laura Hanna (Opinion guest essay, Feb. 11):

The writers have a clever idea to camouflage cultural funding by equating it with highway building and maintenance. I applaud their ingenuity: Fixing a leaky roof is less controversial than supporting the art on the walls or the movie screens below.

Executive directors of every arts organization waste vast amounts of time, energy, talent (and money!) raising money. During the pandemic, government funding through various programs awarded generous amounts based on the budget of the nonprofit, saving many of us from disaster.

A similar approach, rather than the National Endowment for the Arts’ minuscule budget, apportioning funds according to highly subjective criteria, would make sense. Unfortunately, this does not resolve the underlying problem of why Americans put so little value on the arts.

Karen Cooper
New York
The writer was director of Film Forum from 1972 to 2023.

To the Editor:

Laura Raicovich and Laura Hanna wrote that we need to stop treating museums, theaters and galleries like sacred spaces and start treating them more like infrastructure.

Research that identifies museums as “third places” supports this idea. Museums are public spaces where people go to learn new things, to engage with one another, to explore ideas. Reports released in 2021 by both the American Alliance of Museums and the Institute of Museum and Library Services found that Americans trust museums and the information they share.

But like book bans that threaten libraries, another “third place,” museum funding that is guided by politics or power threatens access to art and ideas. Conscious or unconscious bias leads to distrust.

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