In the latter half of the twentieth century, there were a lot of extremely interesting and good experimental artists and musicians in the US who were having more or less sustainable careers, although they were always much more popular abroad than at home.

It's come out in recent years that they were being covertly funded by the CIA. The US, an enormously conservative country, generally has no interest in anything aesthetically challenging, especially outside the large urban centres. While some arts scenes probably were actually self sustaining (like possibly the SF Bay Area scene which has much less access to the international stage), the New York school and related groups did unknowingly get CIA money.
Because the CIA wanted to create the impression that the US was interesting, forward thinking and supported the arts - all of which is mostly false.

Eventually the CIA decided to stop doing this. Many of these artists were gay and when the US government decided to ignore AIDS the impact on the arts is hard to overstate. In the decades that followed, many experimental, interesting challenging artists in New York city have died of chronic malnutrition.

State funding for art in Europe was also part of an imperial project, so the US isn't unique in the motivations for funding.


The reason I say the Bay Area may have received less CIA funding is because of the role of KPFA, a far-left radio station that championed experimental music from it's founding until the 80s. However, the San Francisco Tape Music Centre got major funding from the Ford Foundation and their programme was covered in Life magazine, so I think I'm probably wrong and am projecting backwards from the area's declined and provincial reputation in the 90s.

By that time, KPFA decided that experimentalism wasn't compatible with leftism after all. All the record companies moved to Los Angeles.

@celesteh sounds super interesting. do you have a quotable source about this?

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