Beyond Labels

A 360° Discussion of Foreign, National and Local Policy Issues

Meeting notes 5 December 2016

Topics originally proposed in this post were:

  • How do we feel about private collections (i.e., privately owned and not available to the public)?
  • Under what circumstances should public funds be used to “support the arts?” Or should art intended for public display rely on private “patrons?”
  • Should public support be conditioned, in some way, on content? (I’m thinking of some of the controversial shows that have been (?) displayed in public spaces.)
  • How do we evaluate (and quantify) the benefit of art on society, etc. (the general welfare)?

We considered pushing off discussion because Marion and Sarah were absent, but decided to start this week and continue to next week.

Maine Arts commission budget level at around $700K per year over 10 year period.


In percentage of state budget, it’s 0.1%


Rand Study link to BL post here proposed we need more people to appreciate and value art.

National Assembly of State Art Agencies reports that 28 states have “percent for arts” programs. Policy statement from the Assembly, with historical timeline.  Most are 1% of capital budgets for public projects. Here’s is Maine’ percent program.

National Endowment for the Arts description of how Art is funded in the US.

Funding over time (1970-2012) from the report:


Nervous Nellie’s Jams and Jellies

The valuation of art. article in Wikipedia.

Google Arts and Culture is a pro bono project by Google. It features content from over 1000 leading museums and archives who have partnered with the Google Cultural Institute to bring the world’s treasures online.”

They also do hi-rez images of photos. Here’s a detail from “Stary Night”


If you click on the image you’ll go to the full image, and you can then zoom out to see something more this:


And finally, this


This Google Art experiment “Curator’s Table

“Use the Curator’s table to discover new insights and connections between artworks. Inspired by curators around the world, we applied the principle of laying out prints on a table when planning an exhibition, to our virtual gallery. Assets are animated in realtime. You can search objects, styles and artists, and view them in one 3D space.”

TED Talk explaining the project.




Beyond Labels is very valuable, but paying to participate would vastly change the experience. We are subsidized by virtue of our taxes and donations paying for the library. If we charged admission, would people attend? I’m inclined to think no, because of the way it would change the experience.

Some part of the value of art is like that.  High in value, but difficult to quantify.

Friendship is similarly valuable, but its value is not directly convertible to dollars. If you pay for friendship is it friendship anymore?

“How much should people be compelled to pay for art that you don’t like.”

Deciding these things is an organic process — like the way the body allocates resources between brain, muscles, digestive system, and so on.

Not discussed

Banksy is a street artist who has created a very profitable business from public art provided for free (and in opposition to government).  This is his website.

Very interesting movie “Exit through the gift shop” (Wikipedia, Clip on Youtube) describes how some street art is made, and some has been monetized.




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