The United States provides little direct government support or oversight (e.g. a Ministry of Culture) of a highly developed and complex arts and culture sector. The major cultural institution types that we are familiar with are not the result of a national cultural policy. Historically they emerge from and develop parallel to the institutional forms in the education and social services sector. They are supported by a variety of policies and actions largely conceived for other public purposes. After providing undergraduate students with an introduction to this historical evolution from the importation of differing European notions of charity in Colonial times up to the end of the Cold War the course will go on to examine major recent issues of public policy and the arts, using real world examples to look at major issues—censorship, government funding and the redevelopment of cities and gentrification. The course will look at the issues that are currently emerging and dominating the conversation--cultural identity and appropriation. The arts and creative industries in a post-industrial world of rapid technological, social, political and economic change will support a studentled exploration of the new challenges and opportunities posed by the digital world.
The beginning of the course is largely an historical survey of how public policy in the arts comes to be. We will begin by exploring its origins in the social and educational world, and then follow it as it transfers to the arts world. We concluded this segment by tracing forms of direct and indirect government support for the arts in America in the 20th century and public policies that use the arts for other purposes.
The middle sessions focus on major issues of recent times as they play out in the public policy arena; censorship as a contest of values, government funding as a form of control and the redevelopment of cities where the arts are sometimes an exploited tool, and sometimes a constructive partner.
The final sessions begin with an examination of current deeply contested areas--identity, authority, cultural appropriation and intellectual property. We will examine the impact of the digital world. Many believe that the game changing qualities of the digital world raise new and difficult public policy challenges.