The Polarization of United States Arts Policy: Its Implications and Cultural Importance

Hello All! My name is Josh Myers and I am a double degree major in Political Science (B.A.) and Cello Performance (B.M.) at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA. I am excited to be engaged with you all and look forward to meeting in a few months!

Who are artists? Why does their craft have value for society?  What will art say about the state of our culture 2,000 years from now? The arts are one of the few subjects that can transcend superficial differences, cultural misunderstandings, and time.  Music, visual arts, theatre, and dance are the sources that can be used to access the cultural, political, and social aspects of a nation.  I have been fortunate enough to be involved in the arts since fifth grade, which is when I first picked up the cello and continued ever since.  In 2012, I had the unique experience of being on the South Carolina House Floor, with my state representative, when the legislature decided to override Governor Nikki Haley’s vetoes that eliminated the South Carolina Arts Commission and cut the funding for the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts, my alma mater.  The vote to override these vetoes were overwhelming bipartisan.  This event stimulated my interest of how politics can impact the arts and even culture itself.  My research project will focus on arts policy in the United States and how polarization has affected this often neglected issue.

Some of my central questions could include the following: When and why did the arts become a polarizing issue?  What are those opposing arguments? How have the arts been used as a political tool? How have different administrations treated the arts?  How much money does our country even spend on the arts? The National Endowment for the Arts will be one of the major agencies that I will examine because it has been targeted heavily in the past decade by politicians.  Some of the sources that I will be reviewing for this research project will be congressional transcripts, legislative votes, presidential speeches and statements, and even interviewing current individuals who are stakeholders in arts policy.

One of the greatest challenges that I will face in this research will be to find truly objective sources.  Many articles that have been written about the arts are sometimes from people that have had direct involvement in the industry or have an ulterior motive.  Also, there is not a large publication of resources that deal with arts policy, which is not the case for issues such as the environment, healthcare, immigration, etc.  This is a very important issue that must be given more public discourse and I am honored to help initiate that discussion.

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