I think one of the more important aspects of the Ofili uproar is to bring into focus for the benefit of the non-art world that which is going on at the cutting edge in the arts. And by the same token, it serves to remind the art world of the fact that they do NOT exist in a vacuum. The effect of government funding of ANY activity is to distort the marketplace, causing that which would not otherwise occur naturally to continue and even THRIVE. This is the case not just in the arts, but with passenger rail travel for instance, commodity prices, space travel, and historical preservation, to name just a few. The results in the arts is that art which would never ordinarily be created, exhibited, or performed because of cost-benefit ratios becomes a fact of life.
Personally, I may be swimming against the mainstream in this feeling, but I don't think there should be ANY government support of ANY of the arts. The Ofili episode with it's threats of government censorship is a glaring example of WHY. Throwing the baby out with the bath water? No. Let the marketplace censor art. If it's ugly, if it's hateful, if it's obscene, the thoroughly democratic institution of dollars and cents should prevail. If opera can't stand on its own two feet then let it die, the same with museums, theater groups, and dung artists. The arts are, and have always been, a luxury. If it's a luxury people can do without then so be it. If every last cent of public money for the arts were to cease this very day, artists wouldn't starve, museums wouldn't close, orchestras wouldn't fall silent, and the sky wouldn't fall on any of us. I realize as an art educator, had this been the case in the past, I might have had greater difficulty finding a job. It's tempting to want to make an exception to this proposed rule where education is concerned (and a valid case could easily be made for doing so). But at the same time, I've personally seen the effect of cramming an art education down people's throats. I've even been guilty of doing it more often than I like to recall. The result is frustration on both ends--the crammer and the cramee.
Many arts institutions are addicted to public funds. A cutoff would be quitting "cold turkey." There would be some major financial restructuring of the arts to be sure. Those money managers and fund raisers employed by major art-related institutions would have some sleepless nights. And their might be some momentary dislocation of various art services we now take for GRANTed (pardon the pun). But these things, if they're worthwhile in the first place, would find a way. The wrinkles in the system would smooth themselves out. The effete, wealthy, liberal art establishment would dig a little deeper and come up with the necessary funding to make up MOST of the difference. The system would become leaner, perhaps a little meaner as well, but the politicians couldn't use art and artists like punching bags. Incidentally, I think the same burden should be place upon conservatives as well. Get government OUT of the business of building sports arenas!