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About the Book

Money for Art is the story of public funding of the arts in modern America-the risks and achievements inherent in the ongoing relationship among artists, art administrators, and the legislators who control spending. It is a story of noble intentions that have often foundered on the conflict between individual creativity and democratic expectations.

As David A. Smith shows, government funding of the arts in America has never followed an easy course. Whether on a local or national scale, political support for the arts has carried with it a sense of exchange-the expectation that in return for public money the community will benefit. But this concept is fraught with potential difficulties that touch upon basic tensions between the fierce vision of the individual artist and the standards of the community.

In emphasizing developments since the creation of the National Endowment for the Arts in 1965, Dr. Smith also shows how American art and artists have evolved in the last decades of the twentieth century. Many art observers will recall the heated controversy of the late 1980s and early 1990s over the Endowment's involvement with the photographers Andres Serrano and Robert Mapplethorpe, episodes that aptly represent the inevitable head-on collision of contemporary art and national politics. Dr. Smith reexamines and analyzes these clashes between funding and freedom of speech as a prism through which to view the broad disagreement in America over the meaning, purpose, and place of art in a democracy.

Central to his story are American definitions of egalitarianism and rights. What happens to art in a society that is increasingly, energetically egalitarian and rights-conscious, and how does the direction influence the task of funding art? Should publicly funded art support the "I" of the artist or recognize the "we" of the community? And how can these frequently opposed interests be reconciled? Money for Art tells how these circumstances have evolved and what their consequences are for art in America.

David A. Smith has written a thoughtful, informed, and nonpartisan history of one of the most tortuous areas of American cultural life: the proper place of government support of the arts. An excellent and clarifying contribution to an issue that generally receives more obfuscation than insight.

— Roger Kimball, author of Art's Prospect, The Rape of the Masters, Lives of the Mind, Experiments Against Reality, and other books