If I were the head of the NEA, I would ditch the argument that we should support art because it's "educational." The NEA started making that argument in the 1990s, after the endowment came under attack from Republicans for giving grants to a group of controversial performance artists. By contending that the value of art is as an educational tool, the NEA was able to stay in business, and art institutions were able to raise more money for their education departments. But those same institutions were left without a good rationale to ask for funding to support the art itself. You get the picture: Everybody can get behind the idea of education -- but art, maybe not. As a result, funding for exhibitions and collecting suffered and is still suffering. It's time to start advocating for art on the grounds that it provides us with a rich and valuable experience in itself that can't be had by any other means.

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