La Satira News Service
How much is public art really worth? Researchers at the University of Punxsutawney’s College of Economics and Arts want to know, and they’re undertaking a project to determine exactly that.
Unlike previous research, which typically looks at the amount of money spent by various levels of government and private donors for such things as murals, outdoor sculptures, and street theater performances, the Punxsutawney research will attempt to nail down the actual benefit received by the viewing public.
“The arts community expects the government to subsidize their work,” said Dr. M. C. Friedman, Professor of Economics, “and they talk about the value of art, but what does it really mean? It generally doesn’t have a direction contribution to the production of goods and services, apart from the production of the art itself. Does it boost productivity? If so, by how much? Does it boost tourism? If so, who gets to decide whose tourism gets boosted? If they expect the public to pay for it, the public needs to know what they’re buying. Otherwise, how do we know it’s a good deal?”
The study will attempt to quantify the social value of art by tracking several measures in areas where new public art is installed, such as property values, work productivity, and the amount per capita spent on psychiatric care. The study will consider several different types of art, such as sculptures (indoor and outdoor), murals, street theater, and framed art.
“Of course it’s oversimplistic to say that all art is completely devoid of practical function,” Dr. Friedman said. “We found one example of a neighborhood that put up an intricately detailed, profoundly abstract sculpture. It was so thought-provoking that visitors to the area would often spend several minutes in awed contemplation of it, giving the locals ample time to mug them.”
The discussion of the value of art is, of course, hardly confined to academia. “People say things about a great nation deserving great art,” said Ed Smith, a visitor in the sculpture garden in Antimasonic Park, “but what terrible thing did we do to wind up with Jackson Pollock?”
“Even bad art can have some value,” argued Milton Escher, another park visitor. “Who hasn’t walked by some absolutely hideous sculpture or painting and thought, ‘Even I could do better than that’? That little ego-boost ought to be worth something to the general public.”
“Art who?” asked Phil Stein, a visitor in another part of the park.
The research came about almost by accident following the merger of the university’s art and economics programs. “It started with a conversation in the student lounge about the value of art,” explained the Dean of the College, Dr. Pablo Keynes. “It just sort of grew from there. We feel that the synergy from this study could revolutionize both fields.”
The unlikely merger between the School of Modern Art and the School of Economics was also a surprise. “It wasn’t our first choice,” admitted Dr. Vincent Hayek, the University’s Vice President for Periodic Reshuffling. “The economics school had some space available in its building, and the School of Modern Art was the perfect size to fit into it. Naturally we were curious to see what sort of synergies would develop.”
Dr. Hayek vigorously denied rumors that the merger was done for the purpose of isolating the University’s two most depressing fields.
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