Arts and the economy - uncomfortable bedfellows?
President Obama's multi-million dollar recovery plan may be far removed from the world of arts and letters - but politicians with an interest in culture might benefit from examining one lasting legacy of Franklin D Roosevelt's New Deal, so often quoted as the inspiration for job creation programmes.
The Works Progress Administration (WPA), one of FDR's New Deal initiatives, subsidised writers, musicians, painters and writers. It was a far-reaching and far-sighted programme, out of which emerged a generation of American artists, including Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and writers such as Saul Bellow, John Cheever and Ralph Ellison.
"Why do people think artists are special?" Andy Warhol once asked, "it's just another job". And, during a recession, it is harder to plead the case for painters, authors, musicians and photographers.
But consider some statistics from the WPA. The Federal Art Project set up classes which were attended by 60,000 people a week and produced nearly a quarter of a million works of art. The Federal Music Project provided more than 4,000 concerts a month, with an average monthly attendance of three million people. The writers' project collated oral histories and, in the field of education, thousands of libraries were set up.
Jobs were created, but there was also a sense of culture being woven into the fabric of peoples lives, as opposed to a luxury, not to be thought about in hard times.
The arts in the UK have had a great decade, and though cultural institutions will be feeling the pinch in a debt-burdened economy, ministers must be aware that the so-called "creative industries" account for seven per cent of the national economy.
It may be low on the agendas of those in government, but perhaps it shouldn't be - given the potential rewards.
It is commonplace to see government embracing the arts because they have a practical function: Job creation, education or social improvement. However, they might want to consider Philip Larkin's point that there are many people, who, when faced with something uplifting, will "surprise a hunger in himself to be more serious".