Just the Facts

I dislike it when people bloviate about some subject and provide no verifiable point of reference to back up their sweeping statements. Is it laziness, fear of a challenge or both that causes people to behave this way? Or are they so used to talking to people that agree with them that they expect the rest of the world to accept their word as gospel?

Whatever the cause, it’s no way to convince the skeptics.

A perfect example of this phenomenon is The American Philosopher’s piece Why our small Midwestern city loves the Arts, and stands with Trump to defund the National Endowment for the Arts.

In it he makes several claims, including:

Our small city, despite applying for many NEA grants has never received jack from the NEA. Ever.
So when our small city, with a vibrant artistic community with a regional draw wanted to expand our little family art museum into something great, that also integrated artistic development with our children’s theater and city events — we knew the NEA would not support us at all. Never has, never will. So our community led by a very good and active executive board solicited funds from the community, state, and region.

However, he fails to tell the reader the name of his city or the NEA-free museum, making his statements completely unverifiable.

When thoughtful skeptic Nature of the beat questioned his claims, he doubled down on his assertions, again without any verification:

Like I said our community and projects/efforts related to the arts never has received any NEA funding from any source, or as a part of a source.
The last time the NEA funded something outside the big city was in the 60’s.

I was dubious as well, because I knew the last statement to be patently false.

I wasn’t skeptical that the NEA wouldn't support museum construction. Bricks and mortar is not what they do — for anyone. All one has to do is look at the NEA grants application webpage for museums to see that they fund programming.

I live in Maine. My town of Camden, with a population of approximately 5,000, is the definition of small. Yet an arts organization that is a boon to our local economy, The Camden International Film Festival/Points North Institute, received NEA grants two years running to support education programs run in conjunction with the documentary film festival, $10,000 in 2014 and $20,000 in 2015.

It’s easy to check if your town or region has received an NEA grant. To use their searchable form, click here.

Were The Philosopher’s statements true? It was impossible to tell without the location he had so neatly failed to provide.

Luckily, the piece contained an unidentified photo of the museum, which I was able to deduce was the Museum of Wisconsin Art. It was a small step from there to discover that in 2014 the museum was awarded a $10,000 grant for their Studio Saturdays program. (The program provides participants of all ages with studio access to make work informed by docent gallery tours, treasure hunts, and guided discussions of the permanent collection. — NEA Grant Database)

photo: MOWA 2014 Annual Report, page 15, the page that talks about Studio Saturdays

If the piece of art which graces the opening of The Philosopher’s piece — labeled “Banned from the NEA — a painting from a white Christian kindergartner in a small city that votes Republican” — was done at MOWA as part of the Studio Saturdays program, it may have been supported by an NEA grant.

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