Bienvenue, Kevin Kane, the New York transplant who heads up the Pelican Institute, Louisiana’s first astroturf “think tank.” A few days ago, The Lens allowed (regrettably) Kevin the opportunity to publish a guest editorial about the merits of cutting funding for arts and culture in Louisiana. And perhaps unwittingly, Kevin decided to clearly and definitively demonstrate his complete and total ignorance of Louisiana culture and the tools necessary to sustain and support its vibrancy. Quoting:

There are many reasons why Louisiana has “generations-old traditions like jazz, second lines, Mardi Gras Indians, zydeco and parade floats.” Our state’s unique history, geography and demographic diversity have all had a hand. If there is evidence that government support has been integral to any of these great traditions, Martin does not offer it.

 

If government funding were so vital to the existence of a rich local culture, wouldn’t other states have figured this out by now? According to this logic, Minnesota and Kansas need only spend a few more millions of dollars on the arts and they would become destinations for the educated young newcomers now heading to New Orleans.

 

Of course this is absurd. Just as New Orleans has its own culture, Minneapolis and Wichita have theirs. Each of these cultures has developed over many years and each appeals to some people but not others. State spending on the arts has never been a key factor in this process.

So, first of all, Kevin, you know what is most absurd? Comparing New Orleans and Louisiana to Minneapolis and Wichita. Secondly, you’re not from Louisiana. Not your state. I understand you went to Tulane for a time, but that does not make you an expert, by any stretch of the imagination, in our state’s culture and the exponential return on investment we make from our cultural economy.

Mardi Gras? I hate to break it to you, but it’s publicly-subsidized. And believe it or not, Kevin, it usually generates an enormous return for taxpayers. Somehow, I don’t believe the same model would work in Minneapolis or Wichita.

Mr. Kane then suggests that Louisianans need only to look at Preservation Hall and the resurgence of Frenchmen Street as examples of how the private-sector completely and entirely supports the arts (within a mile of each other in a single city), without ever acknowledging or taking into account the millions of public, taxpayer dollars (whether through tax credits or other support) that have been utilized. It’s not just disingenuous; it’s transparently dishonest.

Kevin, have you ever been to Minneapolis? Seriously. It’s a great place, actually. I spent several summers in the Twin Cities as a kid. They don’t support the arts and culture? I’d bet that be news to them, considering they have some of the best museums in the country. If they only spent a few more million dollars, they could do their own Mardi Gras! So could Wichita! Fools!

Look, I know you’re not from here, so let me clue you in: Louisianans believe in investing in our cultural economy because we know it pays back dividends; we recognize the opportunity to monetize our cultural capital. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

But you know what sucks? When a New Yorker brands himself as a native “pelican” and then, in so doing, pretends to be a curator of Louisiana culture, as if you honestly know anything about the history of jazz in Louisiana or the real reasons for the renaissance of Frenchmen Street.

Geaux home, Kevin Kane, or better yet, convince Wichita to give you a few million bucks and try- I dare you- to even compete against Louisiana. And while you’re at it, please take your former collaborator James O’Keefe along with you.

One thought

  1. “Mardi Gras? I hate to break it to you, but it’s publicly-subsidized. And believe it or not, Kevin, it usually generates an enormous return for taxpayers. Somehow, I don’t believe the same model would work in Minneapolis or Wichita.”

    As a relatively recent transplant to Minneapolis, I can attest to the fact that, for all the ways in which the Twin Cities are culturally rich, and an all-round great place (winters aside), these nice midwesterners know nothing about throwing a parade. 🙂

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