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Opinion >  Column

Doug Clark: Let’s crowdsource Spokane’s art shortage

In the latest effort to dodge doing any meaningful work, City Council President Ben Stuckart has come up with a plan to boost Spokane arts funding from $80,000 to $250,000.

“We need art,” declared Stuckart in a recent news story. “Cities thrive when the arts thrive.”

Well, I couldn’t agree more.

I love art. I have art thriving all over my house. Some of my friends have even been known to commit acts of art every now and then.

But that doesn’t mean that I’m on board with Stuckart’s scheme.

That’s because he wants to raise the aforementioned additional arts money by snatching it out of funds the city already collects through an admissions tax on tickets that are sold for every event.

It sounds complicated but this is really just another case of robbing Peter to pay Picasso.

Trust me when I say that nothing good happens when elected officials start moving our dough from one fund into some other fund.

This is a variation of the old “hide the pea under the shell” game that con artists once used to fleece out-of-town suckers.

Or “creative bookkeeping,” as Al Capone’s accountant once said.

Plus it’s only a matter of time before the officials start whining about how they need to raise taxes to replace the money they originally stole, um, moved.

You know it’s true.

Can you name one time when an elected official ever came up with some grandiose scheme to SAVE TAXPAYERS MONEY?

I didn’t think so.

If only the council focused on real issues, like patching potholes or finding a new tenant for the Macy’s building or hiring a police chief who’ll hang around longer than an average case of the flu.

Sadly, our leaders are more excited about signing global compassion declarations or promoting front yard chicken ranching or shutting up citizen critics who like to gab during council meetings.

The good news is that the council won’t vote on this arts business until March 14.

That leaves us enough breathing room to stop the dilly-Dali and institute my alternate art plan that won’t cost us a nickel.

Remember how I said I had art all over my house?

Well, I’m betting I’m not the only one. I’m betting that 90 percent of Spokane residents have unused art, like paintings and old Clapton posters.

I’d like to gather them all up for the first Ben Stuckart “We Need Art” Drive.

Bring your donations to the next City Council meeting. This is the perfect venue since council meetings are mostly performance art anyway.

We’ll give Stuckart enough art to hang from light poles, bridge abutments and stray dogs.

Spokane will be just one giant art gallery.

Or the council can auction off the art donations as a fundraiser, much the way public radio recycles old vinyl records and tapes.

I’m even willing to get this idea rolling by donating one of my rarest treasures. I found it in my basement, covered with dust and some particularly frightening spider webs.

“Hunka-Hunka Aloha Elvis.”

That’s the name I put on it.

Suitable for public display in the mayor’s office or solid waste facility, this 29-by-41-inch framed painting on velvet shows a sweaty, crooning Elvis in all his performance glory.

The compelling portrait is reminiscent of an Old Master like Rembrandt or one of the better roadside Mexican art merchants.

In the painting Elvis wears a bejeweled blue jumpsuit with a multicolored Hawaiian lei around his neck. He holds a microphone and displays a diamond ring the size of an iceberg. The painting is actually signed by someone, presumably the artist.

I believe I bought this masterpiece years ago in a downtown secondhand store.

That I’m willing to donate it to the city should show everyone how serious I am. The fact that my lovely wife, Sherry, doesn’t want it hanging anywhere in our home really shouldn’t detract from its value.

Art is such a subjective thing, anyway. One person’s “Mona Lisa” is another person’s Paint by Numbers.

And if Stuckart follows my lead there’ll be no need for any funds-juggling rigmarole.

As The King would say: Ben, “It’s Now or Never.”

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at

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