Against All Odds: The Emergence of Arts Patronage in Britain and the United States

By Alan Lawson.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

My comparison of how belief in art as a vital component of civilization in Britain and the United States overcame Puritan and utilitarian objections to government patronage identifies the breakthrough moment in each country and seeks to explain the social and aesthetic traits that accounted for the differences in the nature of those breakthroughs. The essay covers a span of time from the seventeenth century to the present but concentrates on the mid-twentieth century when the crucial arts policies were formulated. I aim to show the relationship of the arts to the crises of Depression and war and to the special influence of the New Deal in America and the Labour Party in Britain. The focus is on the distinctive ways each national effort balanced economic, political, and artistic concerns and concludes with a brief Afterword on the two programs’ status after their emergence.

Keywords: Art and Government

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 1, Issue 7, pp.77-86. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.753MB).

Prof Alan Lawson

Professor of History and Honors, Honors Program, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA

I have been a professor of American intellectual history at the University of California, Smith College, and Boston College. At present I am in the Boston College Honors program, teaching a seminar on the western tradition in the late twentieth century. My writings relevant to the arts include two books, one on independent liberal writers and critics during the 1930s and the other, published in 2006, on the New Deal, including its pre-1930s origins and its legacy. In that work and in other articles, book chapters, and conference presentations I have stressed the importance of the arts to public life and, conversely, have described the ways in which the public sector has responded to the arts from the nation's beginnings to the present. Of special concern in my current book is the New Deal Arts Program, which I relate to major public policy initiatives, public opinion, and trends in artistic creativity, including the outlook of artists toward society and politics.


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