As National Political Conventions Convene, Could The Culture Cold War Turn Hot?

The Culture Wars from the latter decades of the 20th century managed to produce an ugly scar across the public arts funding landscape and although public debate tempered, the struggle was far from over. But unlike the very public debate that raged across national media during the 1980s and 1990s, recent battle grounds have emerged behind closed doors.

Adaptistration Guy TrumpRecent attempts to defund the US Military Music program are an excellent example but as national political conventions begin with this week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, OH, it is worth revisiting the questions we examined back in March, 2016.

That article juxtaposed the ongoing presidential election and its potential impact on the arts sector with what has been unfolding in Israel in the wake of a conservative controlled national government. In particular, attempts by Israeli Culture and Sport Minister, Miri Regev, to penalize arts organizations by way of defunding and imposing leadership attrition mandates if they violated what her party deemed as “actions against the principles of the state.”

Since then, Regev has continued to advance that agenda regardless of outcries from the Israeli arts sector and editorial positions from mainstream media.

Although discussions about arts and culture won’t likely make it into most speeches during the conventions, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t assume your candidate of choice supports the arts. Consequently, it pays to pay attention and ask campaign representatives about their arts and culture policy positions along with what they think about current efforts to defund the US Military Music program.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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