According to Miller, "culture should be seen as the standard
bearer for [Britain's] efforts to engage in cultural diplomacy, to develop soft
power, and to compete, as a nation, in both trade and investment."
Her reasoning mentions the "dividends" from the artistic
industry, and the hope to achieve "financial security" for the sector -- making
it clear that Miller knew how to wield the economic jargon favored by the top
political brass in the Treasury.
But Miller's rationale for funding was stridently challenged
by the outgoing head of Arts Council England -- the body that oversees cultural
spending -- Dame Liz Forgan.
Forgan, whose term as the ACE head ended in January 2013,
had previously spoken out for the intrinsic value of the arts in her departing
address: "the arts, the expression of our culture, are as deep a need in us
as food, shelter, sex, and security. We must have them. We must use them to
express our human nature and our social existence."
In reaction to
Miller's monetary argument, Forgan warned against the dangers of "directing
our investment in culture for its commercial potential," lambasting this
approach as a self-defeating exercise, which will result in "worse art" and a
"worse commercial outcome."
The Scottish Secretary of Culture, Fiona Hyslop, also criticized
the instrumental case for the arts, and responded to Miller's keynote
speech by reiterating why Scots may wish to vote for independence in a 2014
She said Miller presented art as a commodity. By contrast,
Hyslop suggested the Scottish National Party "doesn't measure the worth of
culture and heritage solely in pounds and pence," but values the arts "because
they are our heart, our soul, our essence."
But by no means was the furor about the current state of the
culture budget coming only from politicians.
Commentators at The
Telegraph railed against arts funding altogether, spurred on by the cost of
the event at which Forgan presented her final speech as Chair of the Arts
Derided as a "lavish
farewell party" by critics, it ran up a bill of nearly $12,000, paid
for by public funds. In light of the event, one writer took to
labeling arts funding an "outrage" and a "racket," with "the rich taking money from
everyone else so that they can have their enjoyment paid for."
Culture funding, it seems, can be just as contentious as
more socially controversial political issues.
Though Miller's emphasis on the economics of art was met
with condemnation from some quarters, her argument received a boost from an
independent report published just weeks before the spending review.
This study, carried out by the Center for Economics and
Business Research, found that arts and culture make up 0.4 percent of Britain's
GDP, a strong return on less than 0.1 percent of government spending. The cultural
sector was also seen to have increased its contribution to the U.K.'s GDP since
2008, even as the wider economy contracted over this period.