At the time of this writing, arts organizations all over the country are sweating profusely due to the Trump Administration's plans to eliminate federal funding for the arts, proving that a certain amount of post-election wishful thinking was more like deluded naivete.
And while the following news courtesy of New York's FLAG Art Foundation won't allay these fears, it nonetheless shows that in the world of philanthropy, sometimes a slight modification of Newton's Third Law applies: for every action there is an (un)equal but opposite reaction.
In mid-February, reporters from the New York Times, CNN, and Politico were barred from a White House press briefing, and so the FLAG Art Foundation did what any civic-minded arts benefactor would do: It conjured up a summer exhibition, tentatively called “The Times” which focuses on artists who "negotiate politics, tragedies, social issues, and their own perspectives, by using The New York Times as an inspiration for their work."
FLAG is currently doing an open call for artists to submit Times-inspired artworks for consideration for inclusion in the exhibition, which will run from June 1 through August 11. The foundation was created in 2008 by art patron Glenn Fuhrman and, according to its mission statement, "encourages the appreciation of contemporary art among a diverse audience."
Which brings me back to Newton's Third Law. In its darkest, most honest moments, the art philanthropy world has been forced to imagine a world without federal support for the arts. It's a world in which, among other things, private funders step in to fill the gaps. And while a single exhibition in New York City can't compensate for an entire region losing millions in federal arts funding, the FLAG Foundation's announcement suggests funders will use the Trump Administration's policies as a springboard for new programs and powerful counter-narratives.
We can all agree that Trump's election is a bad thing for the arts. But donors won't sit on the sidelines waiting for a smoking gun in the form of, say, a wiretapped late-night call between Putin and candidate Trump. News out of New York suggests that each rushed executive action, each paranoid tweet, each Sean Spicer slip-up is a new arts program waiting to bloom.
Yes, the bar is low, but it's the best we can do at the moment.
As for the foundation's upcoming exhibition, the deadline for submitting applications has passed. It will be interesting to see where the money goes.