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April 5, 2017
Meet Howard Krinsky of Binders Art Supplies & Frames in Buckhead and Ponce City Market
Today we’d like to introduce you to Howard Krinsky.
Howard, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
My father, Moe Krinsky started Binders along with his brother Joe Krinsky in 1955. After opening and operating Moe’s and Joe’s tavern in Virginia Highlands for almost a decade, the two brothers ventured into the world of retail. Binders at the time being primarily a gift and custom frame store, the brothers put in art supplies at the suggestion of a traveling salesman. For over sixty years Binders has been serving artists and the creative type in the metro Atlanta area. I was fortunate to come into the business in 1982 and worked many years in store operations as well as outside commercial sales calling on the advertising and creative business communities. The digital age arrived along with the arrival of Apple in the late eighties and Binders commercial business started to wane.
In 2001, I along with my business partner Jay Shapiro bought the business. We operated two stores, one in Atlanta and one in Charlotte, N.C. Our focus was growing our retail art supply business with the best selection to offer. In doing so, we became involved in the creative community and did everything that we could to help art organizations around town. We would show up at art demonstrations, openings, lectures and so on in order to help our business grow. In time, we developed the reputation of good guys that were not only selling to the art community, but also we had become accepted as part of this very same community.
In 2010, tragedy struck as my partner Jay was diagnosed with brain cancer and shortly thereafter passed. I continue to run the business with the same zest by allowing our wonderful employees to share in this continuing journey.
In 2015, we opened our newest store in Ponce City Market. It is a wonderful space in such a vibrant part of town. The challenges today for Binders is like any other retail. Our biggest concern is the internet.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
In the eighties/nineties- we had the advent of digital technology (Apple) that took the place of a lot of hand art supplies, typesetting etc. that were now being done on the computer.
In the 2000’s – the internet and the arrival of Amazon has made art supplies more of a commodity. So – we are having to differentiate ourselves.
Location: Atlanta’s traffic is suffocating and has had direct impact on customer visits. Its impact plays into the hand of the internet companies.
Please tell us about Binders Art Supplies & Frames.
Binders specializes in art supplies and custom picture framing. We have a knowledgeable staff that allows customers to get answers that are hard to find. We offer very competitive pricing and we bring that to our customers daily. We dare to be different than most. We have an art gallery where we have monthly art shows, we have classrooms, whereby customers can take different art classes and learn new techniques. We have a wonderful reputation with our suppliers that have them wanting to partner up with us time and time again. I am most proud of our culture and longstanding reputation in both the Atlanta and Charlotte art communities. I have a few employees that have worked over 25 years for the company which speaks volumes about not only our expertise, but about the company culture that we have created. Many of our customers have recognized Binders as a friend to their endeavors as we are constantly helping our local art community
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My dad teaching me how to drive. Voyage ATL
Political activism can be measured in several ways: by the number of signatories on a petition, demonstrators at a protest or donations to an organization.
Or, in some cases, the sale of art supplies.
The week before the Women’s March on Jan. 21 in cities across the United States, protesters who were making signs helped fuel increased sales of poster boards by 33 percent and foam boards by 42 percent compared with the same week last year, the consumer research group NPD reported recently. Poster and foam board sales from Jan. 15 to 21 totaled $4.1 million.
More than 6.5 million poster boards were sold in January, with nearly one-third sold during the week of the march. Sales of easel pads and flip charts grew by 28 percent, Leen Nsouli, an office supplies industry analyst at NPD, said in a blog post.
Sales of the materials used to make the messages on the posters also increased that week: Specialty markers were up by 24 percent; permanent markers, 12 percent; glue, 27 percent; and scissors, 6 percent.
Sales of fabric paint the week before the march were at least three times higher compared with the other weeks in January, Ms. Nsouli wrote. A combined $6 million was spent from Jan. 15-21 on an array of art supplies, NPD said.
Courtney Weber of Washington had a combination sign-making/birthday party in her honor on Jan. 18 that about 25 people attended. Posters, paints and markers were everywhere, but getting the supplies was not easy.
“We were calling around for posters, and everyone was sold out for a five-mile radius,” she said, adding that she saw numerous signs at the march made from pieces of cardboard boxes.
Brendan Orsinger, an organizer for Showing Up For Racial Justice DC, said his members had such a difficult time finding art supplies that they went to hotels and got discarded bedsheets and pillowcases to serve as canvases for their messages.
Gillian Hanna, a shift manager at the Paper Source in Washington, said pink glitter wrapping paper was a big seller. Customers used it to cut out letters or for backgrounds for their signs, she said.
At Blick Art Materials on Lafayette Street in Manhattan, Ian Parsons, a sales associate, said there was “a huge influx of people” in January who were not the college students the store customarily sees.
“They were people who lived in the area, in SoHo, who wanted to get in on the protests,” he said.
Alan Lewis of Astoria, Queens, said his family spent about $30 on markers, poster board and related supplies at a local drugstore. His wife, Alison Gozzi-Lewis, his aunt and sisters-in-law helped prepare the signs, including one that said, “Nap time is over. #staywoke.”
They made about six signs and brought some blank ones. He said inspiration struck as they were on the Metro in Washington.
Mr. Lewis scrawled on one of the blank ones, “If you want a baby for president Grace 2020,” a reference to his daughter, who is almost 2, who went to the march.
He said the signs are in the trunk of his car, ready for the next protest. The New York Times
NEW YORK, NY: When the National Endowment for the Arts was established in 1965, organizers had different models to choose from.
They could have looked to the French Ministry of Culture, a cabinet-level institution committed to maintaining France's cultural heritage. Or they could have copied the generous and government-directed support favored by some Scandinavian countries, or even the state-controlled art of their Cold War rivals: the Soviet Union and China.
Thomas Gainsborough Painting Gauged at London’s National Gallery
LONDON, ENGLAND: On Saturday afternoon, a man took a screwdriver to Thomas Gainsborough’s portrait “Mr. and Mrs. William Hallett,” better known as “The Morning Walk,” at the National Gallery in London, leaving two long gashes in the 1785 painting. The attacker, a 63-year-old man with no fixed address named Keith Gregory, was quickly apprehended by a gallery assistant in the room, with help from members of the public, and eventually turned over to the Metropolitan Police, who placed him under arrest. On Sunday, Gregory was charged with causing criminal damage, according to the Guardian. He appeared in court today, the BBC reported, where he refused representation. He will remain in custody at least until his next court appearance, scheduled for Thursday.
“The damage was limited to two long scratches which penetrated the paint surface and the canvas support, but did not break through the canvas lining,” the National Gallery said in a statement. “The painting was removed from display and examined by the Gallery’s conservators. The process of consolidating the pigment layers in the areas affected by the scratches began immediately. The preliminary reports suggest that the damage can be repaired relatively easily and the picture should be back on the wall shortly.” A photo published by the Sun shows the damage done to the painting: two long gashes forming an X near its lower-right hand corner.
A Reddit user who was apparently at the National Gallery at the time of the incident (around 2:15pm) related the sequence of events in a post. “An older man, surrounded by about 6–8 staff, was quickly taken past us. I quickly learned that he had attacked one of the paintings with a sharp implement, heard the word ‘screwdriver’ from two people,” the user wrote. “According to two people, including one of the staff I spoke to, at one point the perpetrator had claimed he had a bomb.”
The painting, which depicts the young couple William Hallett and Elizabeth Stephen — who were 21 and engaged at the time — strolling with their dog, was executed when Gainsborough’s career was at its pinnacle. He had received commissions from King George III and Queen Charlotte four years earlier, cementing his status as the most sought-after portrait painter in Britain. He died just three years later at age 61.
“It’s one of his great masterpieces: he was absolutely at the height of his powers,” Mark Bills, who runs the historic Gainsborough’s House in Sudbury, told the Guardian. “When you think of the elegant portraits of the Georgian period, that’s the one that comes to mind. … It’s a picture that I can’t imagine anybody finding offensive — what an odd thing to want to do.”
The National Gallery’s East Wing, where the incident took place, was evacuated in its immediate aftermath, but reopened to the public about two hours later. “The Morning Walk” hangs in room 34 of the National Gallery, which made a brief appearance in the James Bond film Skyfall. The painting can be seen right behind Bond (Daniel Craig), who is captivated by J.M.W. Turner’s “The Fighting Temeraire” (1839) on the opposite wall. Hyperallergic
Blek Le Rat (born Xavier Prou) has been painting on walls longer than most reading this article have been alive. He’s influenced generations of graffiti writers, street/urban artists, and vandals all around the world. He studied fine art and architecture at Beaux-Arts in Paris, but the the confines of a studio or classroom couldn’t contain him. He’s the unquestioned original stencil pioneer, his early works paving the way for so many who have come since.
Blek started painting stencils of rats on the walls of Paris in 1981 and has been bringing his art “to the people” ever since. His stenciled works have covered many themes from the beauty of a young couple dancing, the plight of the homeless, and of course the rat. Oh, so many rats. Blek’s travels have taken him now to Chicago, where he will work outdoors on walls and open an ambitious gallery show. His first ever solo show in Chicago, “Ratical”, opens at Vertical Gallery on April 1st at 6p. “Ratical” includes works on canvas, wood, paper, and even a bronze sculpture.
Our own @jreich sat down with Blek to discuss his past, his current, and his future as well as his thoughts on street vs galleries and which of his peers he keeps tabs on.
@jreich: When your name comes up in conversation about “street art” it’s usually followed by the title “Father (or Godfather) of Stencil Art”. Do you embrace this title? Is it accurate?
Blek Le Rat: Yes I do
@jreich: You’ve said that you first saw graffiti in New York City in the early 70s. What do you remember about that experience and beginning to write on walls back home in France?
Blek Le Rat: Yes it was during summer 1972 and I was invited by an American friend of mine that I met at the beaux arts in Paris. We were students at that time and Larry Wolhandler was from Utica NY. He had some cousins living in NYC and we stayed with them in an apartment in Manhathan . I remember having seen graffiti in the subway and some pieces painted on the walls in Greenwich village . I remember that i asked asked Larry why people were leaving these signatures and what it meant for him .Larry told me that he did not know why people were doing this. He thought that these people were crazy. I remember coming across an article in the NYT by Norman Mailer about this movement in NY and Taki 183. The article gave me the answers to my questions. It took me 10 years to start to make graffiti in Paris. 1981 was the year when I started.
@jreich: I love the story of how your name “Blek Le Rat” came to be, would you share it with our readers?
Blek Le Rat: When I was a kid in the 50’s we had a comic book called “Blek le roc ” . Blek was a American trapper fighting against the British army . I was a big fan of the book during my youth . The comic still exists but not famous as it was in the 50’s . I took the name of Blek in reference to the comic book and I changed “le roc” in “le rat” because I was painting rats everywhere in paris . I liked rats and it is the anagram of art which fitted perfectly with my practice .
@jreich: The Man Who Walks Through Walls, His Masters Voiceless, The Beggar, Space Cowboy, Computer Man. You have so many signature images. Yet, The Rat continues to be such a huge part of your persona and career. Your show at Vertical Gallery is even titled “Ratical”! How do you feel about the creature after all these years? Could you ever stop painting rats?
Blek Le Rat: It is strange now because 35 years ago people were scared of rats and had an aversion for rats. I remember people asking me the question “Why Rats?”. We hate rats, you should paint different animals like birds or dogs. The attitude of people is really different today with the rats , I assume they love rats now and they ask me to develop the concept of the life of rats in the cities. It is funny this little wild animal becomes more familiar with people and acceptable .
@jreich:Your have worked all over the world, but this is your first time working and having a solo show in Chicago. What do you know of the city and your expectations for your time here?
Blek Le Rat: I stayed in 1975 in Joliet for a week that’s all I know from the city ! I expect to paint some walls and leave my trace in the city. You know I have loved the USA for a long time now and to me it is like a consecration to show my work in your country. I am very proud of that.
@jreich: How important is it to continue to work in the streets as you’re also showing work in gallery settings all around the world? Could you ever foresee yourself “retiring” from painting walls and only work in galleries?
Blek Le Rat: I don’t want to paint illegally anymore because and I don’t want to have problems with the police anymore for graffiti. If i had the opportunity to paint legally in every city of the world I will make it without any problem. Street art is made for the people who don’t have an access to art in galleries or museums. I have always wanted to touch these people. I also like galleries because it is the place where we can find art in a different way than in the streets but I think it is important to show my work also in galleries because this art is ephemeral and doesn’t stay in the street forever so it is very important to keep a trace and a memory of this art.
@jreich You have obviously gained so much respect from other well-known street artists from Shepard Fairey to Banksy. Are there any current working street artists whose works you follow and look forward to seeing?
Blek Le Rat: I love Shepard Fairey. I remember having seen his work at the end of 90’s beginning of 2000s and I knew immediately that this was a great artist because he had already found his style and was different than the others. He is the most modern artist of this generation . He found a new concept in art and style of representation . I think there is only one or two artists like him in every generation . Warhol was one of them in his generation of the 60’s Shepard is one of them in his time. I love British artists as well they are very creative and free in their way to express their ideas. I love Slinkachu. Ben Eine is really great. Pure Evil and of course Banksy is really amazing! I love artists who build something in their art and hate those who destroy.
@jreich: When you first started creating works on walls did you ever imagine doing it all over the world, and then selling your works?
Blek Le Rat: Yes I did , I remember to be sure in 1981 that graffiti was the future of art and would be accepted by the people as an art in its own right. I did not know that it would take so long though.
@jreich: Your career is like no other in the graffiti/street art world. Do you think about “retiring” from street art, or do you see yourself maintaining this output for many years to come?
Blek Le Rat: No , there is no retirement for artists. I gave the half of my life to this art and I will continue until the end… STREETARTNEWS
SALT LAKE CITY, UT: Inspired by the world around him, Alejandro Pabon Sanclemente spends his free time turning his interpretations of the landscapes that dot the earth into high contrast, colorful images.
A full-time scientist and biotechnology mentor, Pabon Sanclemente was raised in Venezuela and came to Logan in 2003 to attend graduate school and earn a master’s degree in biochemistry at Utah State University. From there, he moved to Salt Lake City for work, where he later began drawing and painting. Science and art, for him, are parallels.
"Science is a form of art. Science shares with traditional art its ways and attributes," he said. "Even though the goal of science may be different, its process is similar to that of art. To produce art, one has to be inspired; one has to have a vision. In science, inspiration is essential to move forward. In science, a great degree of meticulosity and discipline are required to successfully complete experiments and analyze results. In science, plasticity is of utmost importance to attain goals.
"I approach art with the same degree of meticulosity and discipline to achieve the vision, and I am comfortable changing routes for the sake of the vision. When a scientific endeavor results in advancement, the scientist becomes motivated and fulfilled. When a piece of art spurs emotions, or catalyzes a change, the artist finds motivation and fulfillment. I have experienced in science and art similar feelings of accomplishment, and this is what motivates me to keep doing both."
His pride in his work, hobby and family are all clearly apparent ― he seems to value each facet individually.
“I am an outdoors lover, a biologist, and an educator in the field of biotechnology,” Pabon Sanclemente said. “I am a stepfather of two wonderful children and the partner of an extraordinary woman. I am the son of two hardworking, smart and caring parents, and the brother of a talented cook.”
Pabon Sanclemente’s process usually starts with a photo he took, particularly high contrast or dramatic images. He’ll sketch on paper or wood, then either digitize the sketch or move into acrylic, watercolor, oil pastel, or colored pencil to complete the piece. While he uses a variety of mediums to express himself, the images are consistent in their simplicity, with strong use of geographic lines and lively colors.
“I have spent a great deal of time learning how to mix colors in order to achieve the palettes I have employed on my chemical painting pieces,” Pabon Sanclemente said. “I have also tested different media to identify what feels better to work with. Digitization and computer software definitively help me work in a very clean, streamlined, wasteless, efficient way. More importantly, I try to work regularly. Practice is key. Also, I always bring my camera when I am headed to the outdoors. It is a great way to capture and remember inspiring moments.”
Self-taught in computer and graphic design and without formal instruction of drawing or painting techniques, his pieces are unpretentious. Rather, they’re playful and joyful.
“My pieces are the product of experimenting without fearing failure. I play with colors and shapes for their own sake,” he said.
Pabon Sanclemente is represented by Alpine Art. Email email@example.com to get more information on his pieces. KSL.com
Nihad Al Turk came to Edinburgh in 2015 with his wife Sawsan Osso after he was arrested several times for opposing the Syrian regime.
Mr Al Turk, who is a Syrian Kurd, was on the first refugee flight to the UK from Lebanon, landing in Glasgow in November 2015.
He said: "We were introduced when he first arrived in 2015 and I have been impressed by his talent and determination to build his career in a new land thousands of miles from the home he was forced to flee."
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL: When completed in 2015, the mayor's office hailed the graffiti panels along Avenida 23 de Maio as Latin America's largest open-air mural — 70 works of street art stretching for more than 3 miles (5 kilometers) along a boulevard connecting a well-to-do district with the city center.
Then this January, they were painted over.
It wasn't done by vandals or other graffiti artists, as often happens with street art, but by sanitation workers acting on the orders of Sao Paulo's new mayor, Joao Doria, a millionaire businessman and former host of "The Apprentice Brazil." The mayor even donned a pair of orange coveralls and wielded a spray gun to put a thin layer of gray paint over the murals — angering people who considered the paintings part of the city's cultural heritage and sparking a debate about what is art and what should be protected.
Removal of the murals was among the first acts of Doria's "Pretty City" campaign: a traveling circus of street cleaners and maintenance workers who install new trash cans, plant trees, pick up garbage and cover up graffiti around Sao Paulo every weekend. Doria says the goal is not just to clean up Sao Paulo but to restore Paulistanos' pride in their hometown.
Many in Sao Paulo have cheered the campaign for aiming at a widely despised style of street art known as "pichacao" — a generally monochromatic, rune-like calligraphy covering buildings across the city. Doria's administration has increased fines for pichacao, is installing cameras to catch practitioners, and encourages everyone, especially taxi drivers, to report it.
But most Brazilians make a distinction between pichacao — derived from the Portuguese word for tar — and the colorful and pictorial street paintings they call "graffiti." The latter are largely tolerated, often celebrated and widely seen as linked to Sao Paulo's urban identity.
Many considered the murals on 23 de Maio a showcase for Brazil's vibrant graffiti art, and Doria's decision to paint over all but a few touched a nerve about what can be lost when cities revitalize blighted areas.
Some of Doria's critics tie the cleanup campaign to other parts of his business-oriented agenda: a privatization plan to sell off city stadiums and open bids for concessions in public parks as well as an effort to revitalize the dilapidated downtown, an important canvas for pichacao.
"This is not just about a fight against pichacao," said Marcio Siwi, a doctoral candidate at New York University who studies art, architecture and urbanism in Sao Paulo. "This is bigger than that. This is about bringing revenue into the city in a way that's very controversial."
Other cities have waged similar campaigns. The mayor of Lima, Peru, in 2015 ordered the painting over of murals authorized by his predecessor and was showered with complaints from artists and architects who said the murals had reclaimed a dilapidated area. New York has largely won its war to banish the graffiti that once covered subway cars — an art style several graffiti artists in Brazil have cited as inspiration — but many New Yorkers protested when the owner of a Queens warehouse known as 5Pointz, which had become a shrine to graffiti art, painted over its murals in 2013 ahead of its demolition.
Sao Paulo has tried to clean up pichacao before, but it has also long touted its street art, with even the city's own tourism bureau offering it up as a slice of the "real," gritty city. One law even calls for graffiti to be valued and protected — as long as it is done with permission. Pichacao, though, is always considered illegal.
"Street art in Sao Paulo is a postcard for Sao Paulo," said Eduardo Kobra, an artist who started out in pichacao and is now invited to paint murals in cities worldwide.
The removal of the 23 de Maio murals sparked a protest, and tweets flew with before-and-after pictures. Juca Ferreira, who oversaw the painting of the murals when he was the city's secretary of culture, said in a Facebook post that the new mayor's message is: "Art only for the elite."
Confusing many people, Doria has since said he wants to promote street art. But his office says officials removed the murals because some were covered in picahcao and others had degraded over time.
Juliana Serafim Francisco, a chemical engineer who turned up to check out a recent "Pretty City" outing led by the mayor, said the city was right to remove the murals, noting that graffiti is by its nature temporary.
"The graffiti wasn't well taken care of. It's prettier now," Serafim said as Doria scrubbed a plaza in the city's center. In general, she thinks the "Pretty City" campaign is getting big results without spending too much.
Doria has now promised a "museum of street art" to showcase authorized, privately funded murals by artists chosen by an independent committee.
Some critics say the mayor's cleanup campaign is a superficial attempt to attract private investment by papering over Sao Paulo's inconvenient realities — a largely abandoned downtown, a big population of poor and homeless, and the co-existence of rich neighborhoods that equal anything in Manhattan with marginalized areas.
Many "pichadores," typically young people from the city's outskirts, are trying to raise awareness about those kinds of problems, said Djan Ivson, a pichador himself.
"I see picho as a way of taking back the city by a section of the population that is excluded," Ivson said. "It's a natural response to the absence of the state in people's lives."
Many "Pretty City" interventions have focused on areas in Sao Paulo's historic downtown, which began emptying out in the 1970s and '80s after fires burned several fires and another business district was developed. These days, more than 50 percent of the city's homeless live in the Centro, where many buildings are abandoned or occupied by squatters and several blocks are so full of drug addicts they are called "Cracolandia."
While some critics say cleaning up downtown Sao Paulo is fine, they would rather see the mayor refurbish the city's poor outskirts or improve school and health systems. Doria has promised to tackle some of these problems.
"If people want to make a beautiful city, OK. But it should be for real, not just on the cover of the book," Kobra said. "Let's flip through that book and make sure that inside it's also perfect." WSB
An artist and entrepreneur once voted Afghan businesswoman of the year has been granted asylum by the Home Office after being featured in the Guardian last week.
Samira Kitman, 32, who lives in Lancaster, had originally been refused asylum, but was due to appeal on Monday. Late last week, Home Office officials changed their mind, saying they had not realised the extent of Kitman’s profile in Afghanistan and around the world.
She had travelled widely before fleeing Afghanistan after a kidnap attempt and threats she believed came from the Taliban. She visited the US for a meeting with the then secretary of state, John Kerry, and was featured in We Are Afghan Women, a book by the former first lady Laura Bush. Her calligraphy has been praised by Prince Charles and displayed in London’s V&A museum and the Smithsonian in Washington DC.
Her lawyer, Patrick Howe, told the Guardian: “They [the Home Office] advised that, after reviewing their decision, they hadn’t realised the extent of Samira’s profile in Afghanistan and internationally, and that due to her profile she would be at risk.”
As soon as the Home Office completes security checks Kitman will be given refugee status and a five-year visa, after which she will be able to apply for permanent resettlement in the UK.
Kitman came to the attention of the future king while training at Turquoise Mountain, an art school in old Kabul set up in 2006 by the Tory MP Rory Stewart at the behest of the prince and the then Afghan president. The college trains a new generation of Afghan artisans in woodwork, miniature painting, ceramics, jewellery, gem-cutting and calligraphy – Kitman’s specialism. Her artwork became widely respected and in 2014 she led one of the Afghan crafts industry’s biggest commercial commissions to date – providing miniature painting, ceramics and woodwork to the new five-star Anjum hotel in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
As well as working on her own art, she co-owned a crisp factory and set up Muftah-e Honar, an arts foundation which trained young, deprived women to become artists and make a living. By the time she left Afghanistan the charity had taught more than 90 young girls calligraphy skills and how to make miniature paintings. In 2015 she was named best female entrepreneur at the International Women’s Day event sponsored by the women’s centre of the American University of Afghanistan.
All of these activities combined to make her an enemy of the Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist group who object to women playing a public role in society. They did not like the profile she was building internationally, after visits to Germany, Dubai, India, Tajikistan and Pakistan.
She said she was forced to leave Kabul after a taxi driver attempted to abduct her, and after receiving a string of death threats. She came to the UK on a valid visa last year and claimed asylum shortly after arrival, saying she feared for her life back home.
The reality of life as an asylum seeker brought about a stark lifestyle change for Kitman, who lived in a big house in Kabul with her wealthy family. In the UK, she found herself barred from working and had to survive on the £5-a-day allowance the Home Office gives to asylum seekers.
Kitman is overjoyed at the result and looking forward to working and living an independent life in Lancaster, where she hopes to continue her art.
Jenny Natusch, an artist who has become a close friend of Kitman, told the Guardian: “Thank you a million trillion billion on behalf of Samira – we’re pretty sure it’s your article that has potentially saved her life.”
Howe said: “It is great news for Samira and she can finally start rebuilding her life. Unfortunately this is a prime example of the terrors people face all around the world and that there are people who are in serious need of protection and have to go to great lengths to receive it.” The Guardian
Quite often while waiting for a flight at an airport or walking through a hotel lobby, I’ll pick up a copy of USA Today. I’m slightly entertained and occasionally informed by it, though it’s rare that I spend more than a few breezy minutes with it. But after browsing this past Tuesday’s print edition (March 21), I felt propagandized and misinformed by it. It may be a while before I ever buy another.
Here’s the gist of the story that turned me off: For many years, a thief has been regularly robbing homes across the country and then spending much of the loot in stores at various shopping malls. He’s not a completely selfish fellow; he donates a substantial portion of the stolen money to what he regards as worthy causes. In any event, he’s been getting away with it and remains at large.
In a nearly full-page article on March 21, USA Today reported its findings after presumably checking in with the businesses and charities that benefited from the thief’s “generosity.” Lo and behold, every single one of them proclaimed the thief to be a public benefactor! All had become so dependent upon the bandit that in unison they expressed real fear he might find honest work and leave them in the lurch.
From the headline to the last word, the reporter endorsed the robber’s work and the unanimous verdict of his beneficiaries. No mention was made of the forgotten folks whose money was taken or the businesses and causes they might have chosen to spend it on. Like the magician’s trick or a children’s fairy tale, only wonderful things resulted from the thief’s behavior.
This is journalism?
To be honest, I’ve employed some literary license here in describing the offending story. The central message of it, however, is precisely as I’ve laid out in the above analogized version of it.
Written by the newspaper’s Andrea Mandell, with three additional writers noted as contributors, the article easily consumed three-quarters of the front page of the “Life” section. “Public funding helped boost these 10 great cultural works” blared the headline. After a few paragraphs explaining that President Trump’s proposed budget would eliminate taxpayer subsidies for four arts-related agencies, the rest of the article spotlights movies, plays, exhibits and TV shows that might not have materialized (or might disappear) without government funding. They included “The Color Purple,” “Sesame Street,” “Driving Miss Daisy,” the King Tut Exhibit and the Indie film, “Reservoir Dogs.” Item #10 was a catch-all, labeled “Major Film Directors.”
Oh my gosh, can you imagine the damage to our way of life if rich Hollywood directors couldn’t reach into your pocket uninvited? What could any of us possibly spend our own money on that would be more important? We’re selfish and mean-spirited just for thinking it. Shame on us.
Welcome to the world of diffused costs and concentrated benefits, the welfare state’s primary means of propulsion. Take a little bit from a lot of people and give it to a few people whose votes and allegiance the perpetrators thereby purchase without ever spending a nickel of their own. Sell the whole thing to everybody as a worthy cause no decent person could oppose. Lather, rinse and repeat—endlessly. You ultimately get the costly contraption Frederic Bastiat brilliantly described as “the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.”
Even a half-hearted attempt at objectivity would require a mention or two of the many government-funded arts horrors. One of my favorite examples, now two decades old and succeeded by many more questionable cases, was the $1,500 federal grant for a one-word “poem.” It read, “lighght.” That’s it. But by its deliberate cherry-picking, the USA Today article was intended, I’m sure, to make the reader believe that government funding always favors the best.
Truth be told, government funding cheapens the arts by frequently paying for stuff that can’t find willing supporters, usually for good reason. Moreover, government funding is prone to political correctness and cultural elitism. It encourages artists and arts institutions to focus on pleasing the bureaucracy instead of patrons, weakening their connections to the local community as well as their long-term viability. To our “progressive” friends who join us libertarians in denouncing business handouts, I pose the question, “Why should we expect arts welfare to be any better than corporate welfare?”
If Mandell thought this through, she would surely understand that her underlying argument for government funding of the arts could be used to justify absolutely anything: Don’t question where the money comes from. Ignore the preferences of those we take it from. Never consider the people who go unpatronized because their customers’ money was diverted to a government project. Let the bureaucrats spend it while we assume it’s all for a good cause. If those are your premises, how can the outcome be anything but good?
This is Bastiat’s old “broken window” fallacy, writ large in service of a political agenda. Ms. Mandell would do herself and her readers an immeasurable service by getting acquainted with it.
As writers, reporters, journalists of any kind, we must not only think but we must also be thorough in our thinking. Anything less is not so much an article as a travesty. Foundation for Economic Education