Wall Over Warhol: "No Art in Embassies Act"
By Ashley Yu
Before we start this article, let’s do some basic math:
Trump + Wall = $8.6 billion
Art by Bob Dylan + U.S. Embassy= $84,375
$84,375 dollars is way less than $8.6 billion dollars. But we’re funding the latter, simply because our big-orange-baby President doesn’t want to let migrants in. Trump’s allowance for a border wall can buy you 660 of the most expensive Rolls Royce; 90 of the most expensive Warhol paintings; you could feed a whole damn city with that money. Instead of blaming Trump’s wall, freshman Republican Congressman, Tim Burchett, is trying to push “No Art in Embassies Act” because he thinks it’s a misallocation of taxpayers money.
First and foremost, why are we pretending that a rich Republican from Tennessee even pays taxes? Why would he even care? Did you forget about your own scandal from last year, Tim? Until Burchett himself coughs up the $20,000 that he “lost” during his campaign, I don’t see how he can have any say in defunding a critical program in cultural diplomacy.
The “Art in Embassies” program was established by President John F. Kennedy as an official State Department in 1963. Since then, it has been a crucial element in foreign diplomacy and what it means for America to be a supposedly “cultural melting pot,” especially when everyone else is mad at America and keep threatening to blow us up with nuclear bombs. Should they have bought Bob Dylan’s artwork of glorified iron gates for $84,375 during a government shutdown? Probably not, but their biggest sin is just wrong timing. The money didn’t affect any government employee since the funding for the work’s purchase was from last year’s allocations.
Burchett’s defunding of the “Art in Embassies” is essentially the elimination of cultural diversity and exchange. In Burchett’s crude plan to remove art from all American embassies, the Congressman would prohibit the use of any funds “for the purchase, installation, insurance or transport of any art” in any U.S. consulate or embassy, proposing instead a drab, sterile, and ugly interior that would make you feel like you walked into a mausoleum. It feels like a bleaching of the multicultural fabric that America is known for.
I’m not going to be the first to pretend that just because the government rents a painting by an Israeli artist means that it will be forgiven for the Gulf War. But all cynicism aside, the “Art in Embassies” program is the first step to encourage multiculturalism in America--an area that we are failing at with the election of a racist president. Don’t even get me started on the systematic murder of young black boys by the police, or the imprisonment of women who have abortions in Texas, or the inevitable environmental destruction of our planet. America is an absolute mess, but at least let people look at some cool art in the embassies so things can feel less hopeless than it is.