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Columnist 'seduced by a non-issue'

By Bill Tsitsos
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
October 8, 1999

To the editor,

Regarding John A. Ward's Commentary on the "Sensation" art exhibit, I'd like to try and put some of this debate in perspective. First of all, the existence of "shocking" art isn't new. Many viewers of the Armory Show early this century responded hysterically to the first U.S. exhibition of Cubist paintings by Picasso and others. Does that mean it wasn't art? I don't wish to address the question of whether or not the government should fund art because I'm not sure how I feel about it. I can't shake my suspicion that the oxymoronic existence of institutionalized funding of the avant-garde is related to the tedious, stagnant art world that exists now.

Although I won't argue with Ward on the justness of such funding, I do think that he has been seduced by a non-issue. According to the N.Y. Times of Oct. 4, the city of New York contributes $1.5 million to the budget of the Brooklyn Art Museum. I'm going to guess that the total operating budget of N.Y.C. is vastly greater than $1.5 million. This trend is mirrored on the national scale. Many articles have pointed out that the amount of federal government money spent on the arts is a minuscule portion of the federal budget.

But perhaps Ward doesn't object to the amount of money, but rather to the art's immorality. In response, I'd ask if there are not more important moral issues with which we could concern ourselves. For instance, in N.Y.C., which is worse: the fact that taxpayer money paid for someone to throw s-t on a picture of the Virgin Mary, or the fact that taxpayer money paid a police officer to ram a broom handle up the ass of a black man?

Mayor Giuliani has voiced louder objections to the former than the latter. Why is that? Perhaps it's because he is facing a rough Senate campaign against Hillary Clinton. It's just such posturing that has won elections for moral icons like Newt Gingrich, when there are far more crucial issues.

Besides, if we can keep these sick artists off the streets with so little money, isn't that better than setting them loose? Who knows what they'd do if we took away the little money they already get? They could throw s-t on pictures of you, me or even the Girls of the Pac-10! Go Cats!

Bill Tsitsos

Sociology graduate student

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