In a stunning reversal of politics, the Republican Congress with the help of a dozen Blue Dog Democrats has passed new funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), upping its budget to nearly $4 billion--over 25 times the previous funding level even after it was boosted by extra funding in the original stimulus package.
"$4 billion for that great engine of job creation, the National Endowment for the Arts," declared Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) in support of the new measure. "After all, we do know that the arts actually create three times the jobs that tax cuts do."
As Senator Thomas Coburn (R-OK), who originally sponsored an amendment to block extra stimulus money for the arts, put it, "When I found out that the French government was spending over $3 billion each year on the arts, I said to myself, "Self, we got to beat those Frenchies at their own game. We'll call them 'Freedom Arts'!"
Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), looking a bit shell-shocked did say that the measure "would greatly help the arts community of Kentucky (if they can still find one left there)."
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said, "I'm down with the bling, bling, and the art thing. Anything that gets these Republican dudes tight with the hood. Dig?"
Despite the objections of Senator John McCain (the lone Republican hold-out on this bill), some of the new funding is a result of earmarking, which apparently is a new artistic approach created by artist Richard Prince. Prince told the Art Newspaper just after the new arts stimulus bill passed that he "had given up all that crap about copying Marlborough ads and other artists' work" and had taken to tattooing ears--"now that there's so much more money in it. The rest of my market just collapsed as people realized how bad a painter I was and how even worse a photographer. After all, the kids at Kinko's could do what I was doing. I just had to do something else!"
Other artists and art groups scrambled to understand how the stimulus bill worked and what they could get grants for. Here are some early interpretations of the marked-up document, which hasn't even been officially released to the public, and the areas of arts funding that it may provide:
--Funding for painting over mural paintings on buildings, which were funded by earlier funding measures.
--Funding for paintings, prints, sculptures and photographs of elephants, as long as they are not made to resemble Rush Limbaugh.
--Funding to Kinko's for copying Marlborough ads "real big".
--Funding for Damien Hirst's 18 out-of-work assistants, which Hirst so humanely fired immediately after receiving over $200 million from the auction of his "art" at Sotheby's London. Prime Minister Gordon Brown was said to be considering matching funds at press time. (Personally, I think that any curator showing Hirst's work should be pushed immediately to the top of any museum's budget chopping block.)
--Funding for performance artists like Fox News Crying Commentator Glenn Beck, who promptly changed his position on funding the arts, saying it was a conspiracy that he could really get behind.
--Funding to buy up all those paintings on velvet of Cats and Dogs Playing Poker.
--Funding to give a grant to artist Shepard Fairey, but only if he uses the funds to make a poster of Sarah Palin. Associated Press immediately protested and asked that President Obama veto the legislation.