What About the Recession’s Effects on the Arts?


Question/Comment: Is there a possibility that you would do a piece on the Brandeis decision to close the Rose Art Museum and sell the collection? I know you’re a graduate, as I am. It strikes me a bad decision in every way, including economically. I wouldn’t apply there now, nor would I donate. I would love to see your perspective presented!

Paul Solman: Not likely to do a piece anytime soon, given all the other things going down at the moment. As for Brandeis, the close-the-Rose/part-with-the-art decision is now, as you probably know, up in the air.

What I’ve found most intriguing about Brandeis and its fiscal crunch is the faculty initiative spearheaded by the head of the faculty senate, English professor William Flesch, to voluntarily take a pay cut to forestall faculty layoffs. Some 35 percent of Brandeis faculty had signed on, last I knew.

It is a brilliant example of something I’ve written about on this page before: the “Share Economy” idea formalized in the early ’80s by economist Martin Weitzman, in which workers are paid as a percentage of income (or profits) instead of being vaulted ahead of one another in good times, pitted against one another in hard times.

As for the Rose, I quote another Brandeis professor I much admire: “People before things.”

Editor’s Note: You can find more coverage of the decrease in arts funding on our Art Beat blog. Art Beat has also covered the Brandeis art museum closing. Below, watch a segment on the recession’s effects on arts and cultural organizations.