Author Mark Judge, also known for his association with Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, recently penned a flawed but interesting article in SpliceToday about the unwillingness, or inability, of conservatives to both adequately fund artistic endeavors and properly review same.
A recent Sunday edition of the (New York) Times offered a selection of incisive and penetrating arts coverage. There was an essay by Blake Gopnik on the Supreme Court and the last 500 years of art. There was a review of the new Walter Mosley book. There was a fantastic essay in the magazine about “the new Black canon” of literature. As if that wasn’t enough–to say nothing of the book, dance, music and movie reviews–there was a beautiful piece by Adam Tendler. Tendler, a classical pianist, used the money from his father’s death to commission music pieces on the theme of “inheritance.” He wanted to create “a vessel through which I could connect to my elusive father, process my grief and reconcile with my past.”
Ben Shapiro reviewing the new Batman movie can’t compete with that. Neither is National Review devoting its culture section to “wokeness.” Most conservative arts writers are slumping political writers, or hacks who got their job through nepotism or the buddy system. The only outstanding arts coverage from the right is at The New Criterion, but that’s a monthly journal that doesn’t publish in the summer and avoids all popular culture. They also don’t do interviews and profiles.
Since I’m pretty confident I’m not a hack, I’ll ignore that part and focus on Judge’s criticism of conservative coverage — specifically, the lack thereof — of the arts.
An autobiographical note is in order. I was fortunate to grow up in a household embracing the arts in many formats. My father built a floor-to-ceiling bookcase next to his easy chair in the living room, every inch filled with books on topics such as theology, science, the arts, and history, with the occasional novel sprinkled into the mix. One of the books was a massive (literally) collection of famous paintings that I constantly went through.
Where there wasn’t a book, there was an album from many musical genres: classical, pre-rock crooners, folk, and country. My siblings added their vinyl purchases, including 1960s rock and pop plus early 1970s hard and progressive rock. I came across the blues in high school, so there was also that element. I also used to devour the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle, particularly the arts section. And yes, despite it all, I grew up and have remained a conservative, something for which I also thank my parents.
Back to Judge’s judging. While it is accurate that conservative publications don’t feature many classical music or ballet reviews, let alone discussions of visits to the local art gallery, there is an undercurrent of interest in such matters. It is encouraging how this site allows coverage of artists combining both world-class talent and conservative beliefs; examples include Richie Furay, John Ondrasik (Five For Fighting), and Robert Berry (multiple projects including 3.2 and SiX BY SiX). On the video side, FilmLadd (Ladd Ehlinger Jr.) is doing yeoman work. The landscape isn’t nearly as barren as Judge declares.
Still, there is much room for improvement. Conservative sites should embrace cultural engagement in both the classic and contemporary realms. The latter is challenging; discovering nuggets amid the morass can be exhausting. That said, in a world where every day makes it ever more apparent the opposition sees us as subhumans deserving extermination, we need to fortify ourselves with more than snarl and snark about how liberals are poopyheads. We need more of the arts in our lives, and we shouldn’t have to read the New York Times to get them. So talk up quality artistic efforts among family and friends. Larry Norman said it best: why should the devil have all the good music? He doesn’t. Nor does he have all the good paintings, dances, sculptures, plays, television, movies, etc. We do, and we’re taking them back.