Ernest Hemingway and Government Art Subsidies: A Farewell to Alms

Click for audio Ernest Hemingway and Government Art Subsidies: A Farewell to Alms

It's often said that life imitates art, but for Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway, art imitated his famously independent lifestyle. This month marks the 100th anniversary of this former Michiganian's birth—and offers a lesson on the need to keep art independent of government.

Hemingway was born in Illinois in July, 1899, but he spent his first 19 summers at the family cottage on Walloon Lake near Petoskey. As an adult, he lived in many places including Florida, France, and Cuba, but he wrote about Michigan people and places in many of his most memorable stories.

Hemingway's writing reflected his belief that individuals had to work independently to create true art. He generously supported promising young writers with advice and money, but stressed the need for them to find their own unique voices.

Today, many artists compromise their voices by depending on government programs—such as the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs—that offer support with political strings attached.

Artists should heed Hemingway's advice about the need for creative independence, and art patrons should follow his example of private and voluntary support for talented young artists. The arts are too important to depend on government.

For the Mackinac Center, this is Catherine Martin.