For years, it has been incumbent on "forward-thinking" governments to sponsor the arts and the artists around their countries through endowments, grants, and special project funding. Many of these artists believe that they have the right to make a living as artists, and further believe that the government should be paying them to do it.
While I agree that the arts are important to a culture, I have always had a hard time believing that anyone had the "right" to make a living from taxpayer funds. I've been a musician since I was five and have, not once, ever thought that anyone owed me the ability to make a living while honing my craft. My pursuit of art (and craft for that matter) comes from passion and willingness to pursue it.
Part of my criticism of government funding for the arts comes from the bodies that oversee it. I've always held the notion (romantic though it may be) that art should exist unencumbered for its own sake and not beholden to anything. The structures and preconceptions that often come part and parcel with arts funding preclude this freedom. To apply for a Canada Council grant in the arts one must automatically pigeon-hole their idea into limited parameters and variables to satisfy the board making the decision. That board, by its nature becomes a gatekeeper to "art" and, by my view anyway, severely impedes artistic integrity.
I do however appreciate the idea that many great artists use funding to hone their craft where they might otherwise have to spend their days working a non-related occupation. That said, is the chosen artist really chosen on merit by the board, or how well they can fill out a grant application?
And all this to lead to the title question: Are Blogs Art?
I would automatically answer "no" under the definitions I hold true for the term, but when I put some blog writing up side by side against short stories or poetry, I have to reconsider. Aside from the basic tenets of communication and education and information, how different is the blog writer from the poet. I would like to say that the poet hones their craft and the resulting artistic products, while rife with meaning were only true to their own outcomes and not the expectations of readers. But I know poets who write for a purpose. They have an endgame in mind when trying to promote a message. This tends to be what bloggers do all the time: have a message, convey it through words and ideas. Does it make sense that the poet gets funded and blogger does not?
Does one hold a higher moral obligation than the other? Sure, a poet can be cryptic and hide meaning without being blunt and overbearing, but some of the best poetry hits you right over the head like a sledgehammer. I've read blogs both cryptic and blunt, both flowery and caustic. While one would rarely mistake a blog for poetry or the other way around, I would never claim that the intent, talent and skill required to write for one form was any greater or less than the other. I have read crappy blogs and crappy poetry and brilliant examples of both. The level of craft on both is high, and I cannot figure out how any Council or board could figure out the difference.
So in my best McLaughlin Report method of answering the question, are blogs art? YOU'RE ALL WRONG! The real answer is, I don't know. What I do know is that I'm certainly not comfortable saying one should have funding and the other not. For all of the defenses that could attributed to the importance of art can also be attributed to new media. And all of the people who write incoherent poetry are more than matched by those who write inconsequential blogs.
And I should know... I've written both many times.