Art Politics

This expansion of professional space is a result of another theme that I take to be distinctly contemporary, and that is that artists, in all media, no longer feel obligated to wait around until the established institutions, that is, the certifying agencies, "discover" them. Instead, dancers establish their own showcases, poets their little magazines, visual artists found co-op galleries, in part to say that they will not wait around, they will not take exclusion from the mainstream sitting down. The rise of alternative institutions in every art is thus of a piece, and together they constitute the most radical, most promising development in our professional lives.

On Innovative Art(ist)s (1991)

The theory of "affirmative action" is that minorities should now be favored as recompense for previous neglects. While this principle has pointed validity in the construction industry, enabling minority poor to obtain jobs previously closed to them (and thus more easily to become middleclass), it is considerably less appropriate in humanities funding, where every applicant is already middleclass by virtue of the fact that he or she is a professional scholar. The true humanities underclasses today are independent scholars, as noted before, and Ph.D.s who have never been able to acquire professorial tenure and thus bounce from one low-paying teaching job to another until they bounce out of academia. They are mostly under forty and, incidentally, disproportionately male and white, with respect to both the population as a whole and the current composition of university faculties.

Characteristically two decades behind in its social sensitivity (and perhaps unable as well to think in unobvious categories), the NEH has scarcely caught up with the inequity of their condition and the loss of their possible contribution to scholarship.

The Grants-Fix (1987)