Degree Year


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




William Norris


Government, Performing arts, Arts, State funding, 1980's, Public policy


State involvement in the performing arts has led a varied life at different times in different countries, but rarely has it existed without controversy o£ some kind. The present time is no exception. The 1980's have witnessed a serious attack on public funding of the performing arts. While the previous two decades can be characterized as periods of growth and expansion both in the public sector and the world economy, the 1980's have been characterized as a period of economic austerity and, restraint in the public sector. Concerning the actual amount of money involved, the arts seem to generate a disproportionate amount of political controversy. President Carter's comment that he was spending as much time choosing a new Chairman for the National Endowment for the Arts as on the SALT talks is illustrative. Changes in public policy toward the performing arts often reflect a great deal about the government involved and the present political context. The arts can function as an important symbol for the state, as a symbol of national identity or of a “cultured,” high-minded state. More importantly, the almost marginal situation of the arts within the scope of state activity make it a kind of meter to the political culture within a particular country. This paper asks many questions. It is descriptive: What can we understand about the nature of arts policy in general? What are the existing policy structures for the performing arts? It is exploratory: What has occurred in the realm of public policy toward the performing arts in the 1980's? Perhaps most importantly, however, it is explanatory: Why have these changes occurred in the specific and different ways that they have? What has been the impact of these changes upon the performing arts? What is the likely impact upon the future? It seeks to identify the major elements in arts policy that influence and determine policy changes and to find a more general understanding of how these elements interact within the policy framework and within the constantly changing policy environments. I do not intend to completely account for public policy toward the performing arts, the nature of which would be unending. I intend rather to discuss what I perceive as the major elements affecting changes and important to an understanding of public policy in the 1980’s.

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