Which Presidential Candidates Actually Support the Arts?

Who's the biggest loser on arts funding?

Current contenders for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations (and a few recent drop outs).
Current contenders for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations (and a few recent drop outs).

Pop quiz: Which presidential candidate’s mother was an artist? Which one’s campaign has been extensively bankrolled by an Art Basel supporter? And who “flirted briefly” with the idea of applying to film school?

With three debates behind us and many more to come as the 2016 presidential contest gears up, the Americans for the Arts Action Fund has published a handy guide with information about the contenders’ positions on cultural issues, from fine art to music. (The authors are talking arts very broadly; they list Donald Trump’s time hosting reality television shows as part of his “personal arts background.”)

Here are some fun and informative facts to keep in mind when you head to the ballot box or to the next town hall meeting. But since there are so many aspirants, we’ve made some choices; you won’t see everyone here. (Sorry, Jim Gilmore! Maybe next time, George Pataki!)

We’ve listed the candidates roughly in order of where they’re currently appearing in the polls.

The Democrats

Hillary and Bill Clintons attend the unveiling of Bill's presidential portrait at the National Portrait Gallery in April 2006. Photo: Jonathan Ernst, courtesy Reuters.

Hillary and Bill Clintons attend the unveiling of Bill’s presidential portrait at the National Portrait Gallery in April 2006. Photo: Jonathan Ernst, courtesy Reuters.

 

You might never guess it, but Henry Moore had a hand in the origin of one of the greatest power couples in 20th-century American politics. Hillary Clinton’s first date with Bill involved a stroll to the Yale University Art Gallery, where they checked out sculptures by the British artist. During her time as First Lady, Hillary founded the White House Sculpture Garden, which has shown works by figures such as Louise Bourgeois and Robert Therrien. (She was also the subject of an ambiguous campaign by an anonymous street artist in Brooklyn.)

Bernie Sanders.

Bernie Sanders
Photo Phil Roeder, via Flickr.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders earned an A+ on all report cards from the Americans for the Arts Action Fund. He has said he wants to be an “arts president” and has told Vermonters that he enjoys “populist art.”

Lincoln Chafee’s wife’s family founded the Rhode Island School of Design, and his great grandfather was artist George de Forest Brush, who petitioned the US Navy to adopt camouflage designs. Chafee voted against cuts to funding for the National Endowment for the Arts in 2000. It’s worth noting that that was at the end of a decade marked by the Culture Wars, in which crusading Republicans like Jesse Helms aimed to eliminate the agency, provoked partially by public support for exhibitions including artists like Robert Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano.

As Maryland’s governor, Martin O’Malley provided state funding to the Walters Art Museum and the Baltimore Museum of Art so they could institute free admission. The state ranked in the top five states for arts funding during his tenure.

The Republicans

LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 28: Chairman and President of the Trump Organization Donald Trump yells 'you're fired' after speaking to several GOP women's group at the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino April 28, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Trump has been testing the waters with stops across the nation in recent weeks and has created media waves by questioning whether President Barack Obama was born in the United States. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

Donald Trump.
Photo by David Becker/Getty Images.

Donald Trump “flirted briefly” with the notion of applying to film school before going into real estate. The reality TV kingpin, who has estimated his personal wealth at $10 billion, gave a measly half-million or so to “arts-affiliated organizations” between 1994 and 2010. So on the arts, he’s pretty much a loser.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush has an up-and-down record on arts funding; he severely slashed arts support in his state in 2003 (from $28.1 million to $6 million), but by the end of his second term, in 2007, he’d lifted it to $32.6 million. His wife, Columba, is friendly with pop artist Romero Britto and organized exhibitions at the Florida governor’s mansion including artists like Salvador Dalí, Frida Kahlo, and Diego Rivera.

Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina’s mother, Madelon Montross Juergens, was an abstract painter, and the candidate has a collection of her work.

Though he’s surged in the polls and raked in millions in donations since we learned of his positions on potential Muslim presidents and how not to get killed in mass shootings, neurosurgeon Ben Carson is a wild card on arts policy since he has no background in elected office.

Marco Rubio and Norman Braman.<br>Photo via Greater Miami Jewish Federation.

Marco Rubio and Norman Braman.
Photo via Greater Miami Jewish Federation.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio has found a supporter in billionaire art collector and Institute of Contemporary Art Miami board co-chair Norman Braman, who has also been involved with Art Basel Miami Beach. Braman has not only given $10 million to Rubio’s presidential campaign but also “subsidized Mr. Rubio’s personal finances,” according to the New York Times.


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