The debate between which arts funding systems work best is nearly self-perpetuating. Based on overall dollars spent per-capita, there are two frontrunners: the US and German systems.
While this is a tremendous oversimplification, the major difference between the two is the US system relies funding from private resources while the German model depends on government funding.
That difference is rooted in the birth of nonprofit status in the US. Interestingly enough, we touched on this very subject in a Shop Talk Ep. 02, Art Has Always Been Political, a few months ago. In a nutshell, nonprofit status evolved out of a conscious decision to limit federal government spending after Congress passed the Revenue Act of 1913.
There was a fundamental understanding that the money class would fund things like arts and culture instead of the government. As a reward, they received a deduction for their largess. This provided a control measure for keeping federal government expenses low and therefore cap the need to increase income tax rates.
While those involved at the time simply understood the one percenters of their era would pony up the dough, they failed to put measures in place to assure that spicket remained open during emergencies…like a pandemic.
On the other side of that coin, my blogging colleague, Joe Patti, published an article this week that examines the decision by Germany’s government to create a $2.5 billion cancellation fund capable of allowing event organizers to plan shows in the third and fourth quarter of 2021 with some confidence by promising to cover any COVID related losses.
If that weren’t enough, IQ-Mag.net reports there are also plans under way to provide funding to mitigate against losses due to capacity restrictions.
In the end, I’m always one to bet that systems are only as good as the people involved but this does demonstrate that while governments are far from a safe bet, they are still required to discuss funding changes. In the US model, the money class can simply bow out without worrying about similar public pressures.