Though recent reports might indicate otherwise, social media outlets are once again enacting tangible change. Filling in the hole left by meager federal funding, popular crowd-sourcing website Kickstarter is set to provide more money for art projects than the National Endowment of the Arts. Put another way, a 3-year-old internet start-up funnels more money towards the arts than the federal agency whose sole purpose is to funnel money to the arts.
Kickstarter allows artists to propose projects that users can decide to donate to. If the project gets above a certain threshold, all of the donations go live and the artist has enough money to actually pursue the project. If not, then it’s like it never happened — the artist doesn’t get any money and the users don’t lose anything. At the very least, this model indicates that social media is not just good at bringing people together, but can bring complete strangers together around a cause and actually accomplish something that betters the world.
On the other hand, Kickstarter’s success obscures the sorry state of arts funding in the US today. The NEA’s budget stands at only $146 million dollars a year; compared to other government programs (or even SuperPAC spending, for that matter) that’s nothing. One of the reasons that Kickstarter could so quickly surpass NEA is because it didn’t have much to catch up with.
Not just artists and internet gurus are decrying this lack of government funding. George Mason economist Alex Tabarrok has called for an “Innovation Nation,” where government policy and funding is directed not towards paying for expensive wars and ineffective redistribution programs, but towards fostering and harnessing the creative power of Americans.
Though he focuses on scientific research, the point still stands: there’s simply not enough government support for new creative products, be they in the arts or sciences. (And anyone who might argue that scientific innovation is more socially useful than what is found on Kickstarter is clearly unfamiliar with the kind of socially useful creative products created through Kickstarter crowdsourcing). Though it’s great to see that a crowd-sourced website like Kickstarter is so successful, here’s to hoping that the NEA sees this for what it is: a wakeup call.
Photo Credit: zoetnet
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