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Art Worth Its Weight in Soybeans : Creativity: Let's do for artists what we do for farmers.

May 10, 1993|CHARLIE VARON | Charlie Varon is a humorist and solo performer who lives in San Francisco. and

Maybe the government ought to do for artists what it has long done for farmers--pay us not to make art.

Farm subsidies have given tobacco and soybean farmers a chance to step back from the madding business of production. To reflect, to daydream, to watch the clouds go by. Do artists deserve less?

Never in the history of time have artists been so productive as they are in the United States in the late 20th Century. Writers have word processors. Visual artists have MacPaint. Composers have synthesizers. Television producers have deadlines.

All this creativity is exhausting. We dare not say it in public, but our wells are running dry. We need time to replenish. To lie fallow.

We need not-making-art subsidies.

What has this glut of art done to our audiences? It has overwhelmed and numbed them. As a nation, we suffer from consciousness overload. Movies, plays, books and songs don't touch us, move us the way they used to. They are blips on the screen instead of experiences that rearrange our thoughts and change our lives. Nothing has any weight any more. Five hundred channels of cable, indeed.

A national arts sabbatical is our only hope. Viewers, readers, listeners will have a chance to catch up. To absorb. To restore a sense of wonder.

Already my paragraphs are growing shorter. My thoughts simpler. I am gearing down, preparing for my creative hibernation.

Visualizing, as we say in California, a year of not writing or performing.

My computer in a box in a closet.

My restless mind at rest.

Washington, can I count on you?

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