Program: Arts and cultural
grants and administration
This appropriation funds the Michigan Council for Arts and
Cultural Affairs (MCACA). Former Gov. John Engler created MCACA in 1991
encourage, develop, and facilitate an enriched environment of artistic, creative
cultural activity in Michigan."
 The council is made up of 15 appointees,
each of whom serve three-year terms, and a staff of nine individuals who oversee
the awarding of grants to a variety of organizations and projects throughout the
state. The MCACA’s fiscal year 2003 appropriation is $12,481,700, $700,000 of
which comes from federal sources. In addition, MCACA received an additional
$11,900,000 from the state’s general fund; an amount not reflected in the
original appropriation. The total budget (including the supplemental
appropriation) is $24,381,700.
In September 2002, then-Gov. Engler announced $22.6 million
in MCACA grants to 368 organizations and projects in 69 counties for the current
 Some of these grants go to regional or local government arts
councils, who in turn "re-grant" some of their funding to other organizations
and projects of their choosing.
The administration line item, worth $839,100, simply covers
personnel and operational costs for the program.
The Michigan Legislature should eliminate state funding for
the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, including its
administration. The reasons for this move include the following:
subsidies are inherently politicized and unfair.
Having an "arts council" enables politicians and their appointees
— not the art-consuming public—to decide which art forms and artists are
worthy of support and which are not. The artistic judgment of the "common
folk" may not always be agreeable to the connoisseur, but the judgment of the
elite minority who control government "arts funding" is far from infallible.
For example, MCACA awarded $22,200 to one elementary and one middle school in
the Lansing school district to bring "teaching artists" from nearby BoarsHead
Theatre (which received $72,700 from MCACA) into the classroom. One of the
artists’ homework assignments consisted of directing students "to brush their
teeth with the opposite hand to illustrate that it’s possible to learn new
 It is at least debatable whether citizens allowed to keep their
own "arts dollars" would choose to spend it in such a manner. But even if
they did, at least it would be their own money. As author John Updike,
two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, declared, "I would rather have as my
patron a host of anonymous citizens digging into their own pockets for the
price of a book or a magazine, than a small body of enlightened and
responsible men administering public funds."
subsidies often take from the poor and give to the rich.
Supporters of government arts subsidies like to argue that the subsidies are
needed to bring art to lower-income people who otherwise would not have the
resources to enjoy it. However, evidence suggests that art subsidies flow
from the poor and middle classes to wealthier citizens — those who tend to
frequent museums, operas and symphonies in the first place. For example,
projects from wealthy Wayne County received $9,718,300 in MCACA grants for
fiscal year 2003, the largest dollar amount received by any Michigan county.
Oscoda County residents saw just $5,000 in MCACA grants come their way.
According to census data, Wayne County has a population of 2,045,473 people
and a per-capita income of $20,058; Oscoda County, by contrast, has 9,558
residents and a per-capita income of $15,697. As a ratio of grant
funds to population, Wayne County receives back from the state $4.75 per
citizen while Oscoda receives only $0.52 per citizen. Over half of the Wayne
County grant money, $5,943,900, went to just two organizations: the Detroit
Symphony Orchestra and the Detroit Institute of Arts. Economist Robert
Samuelson seems to have had it right when he called government arts funding
"high-brow pork barrel".
subsidies corrupt artists. Subsidies gradually but inevitably lead to the "dumbing down" of
art as the hopeful beneficiaries of government grants tailor their craft in
such a way as to make them most likely to receive state money. In other
words, because there never will be enough money for every aspiring artist, the
state must of necessity develop a selection process; thus artists applying for
grants will tend to pursue work palatable mainly to their government patrons.
Some writers have recognized the artist’s need for independence and warned
against this dynamic. Nobel Prize-winning novelist William
Faulkner remarked, "I’ve never known anything good in writing to come from
having accepted any free gift of money. The good writer never applies to a
foundation. He’s too busy writing something."
 Faulkner’s fellow Nobel
laureate, one-time Michigan resident Ernest Hemingway, said that a writer who
uses politics to advance his career might "get to be an ambassador or have a
million copies of his book printed by the government," but he is betraying his
 Savings: $11,771,300. Governor
Granholm’s 2005 proposal increases the gross appropriation to