Museums, potatoes and chips

Paying tax and the arts

My neighbor is a qualified potato producer. A nice guy who kindly helps with a battery when my car does not start. Every year he cuts the outside of our hedge next to the lane where he has to pass regularly with his machines. Although our jobs are very different, we have a good conversation when we are together every now and then. Better a good neighbor than a distant friend, they say.  

That is definitely true.  

I'm mentioning my neighbor here because, like everybody, he's a taxpayer. And with tax money lots of institutions are supported, including museums. This is one of the reasons why museums are supposed to focus on attracting as much visitors as possible. 
 
There was a small museum nearby closed down because of cuts on art and culture budgets. The alderman stressed that it did not attract enough visitors after she had ignored, without a clear reason actually, a fusion plan of the museum, with a few small other museums. This small museum managed to realize innovative experiments on the interface of nature and art and was mentioned very often in the media, which has a positive effect on the image of the city. The museum attracted a modest number of visitors with a very modest budget. Finally, the politicians focused on an educational center, so the museum was transformed into it. After that it disappeared into oblivion. 
 
My neighbor's response to this incident was simple but clear. "Well, such a museum does not work out, so it's logical that it's closed." He kept silent when I suggested that his potato company receives much more funding than a museum. After all, agriculture in Europe is supported annually by a very clustered support system in which 100s million euro tax money disappears.  
Institutions financed with tax money have a special responsibility to society. That`s a fact. But this seems to be especially a fact for the arts, including museums. They need to prove themselves again and again severely guided through a complex reporting and checking administration.  
The problem is that the museum product is increasingly seen as a common market product, which has only subsistence when it is sold for money by a huge amount of entrance fees. The fact that museums have an important role in reflection, education, connection between people and giving meaning to them, is ignored. And that's exactly the added value of a museum above a potato field, which produces potatoes for fries. Nothing bad about fries, though I would not eat too muchof it, but the museum product is not comparable to a regular market product and not at all with potatoes.

July 2017