Alan Jacobs quotes a blog post by Ted Gioia concerning effective use of philanthropic funding in the arts. Gioia’s idea is that Big Arts fund more humanists (artists, writers musicians) at moderate levels (he suggests $50,000/year) as a more effective means of changing the arts climate in the US than the current megagrant lottery pool. As with most of the best ideas floating around these days, it invokes the power of breadth of scale as against the power of magnitude — Since we currently inhabit a world in which owning a billion dollars worth of something is not an outlandish state of affairs, and since a billion dollars is more wealth that you or I or the billionaire in question can really understand, we do more good by spreading it around than by scooping out big dollops of it to lucky individuals — and even with generous spreading-around, we hardly touch the intensity of wealth that a billion dollars entails.
Give hard-working cultural labourers a secure living and encourage them to work, and you will see marvellous things happen.*
* Yes, you will also see some recipients p*ss away the money or produce cruddy work. This is how life goes. Some financial managers, product designers, public relations managers, ad agencies, you name it, are rubbish at their work, but they still get paid.