In the wake of the recent flag-on-the-floor exhibit at the School of the Art Institute Gallery, the Illinois House of Representatives is considering a bill passed by the Senate to cut funding for the school from about $65,000 to $1. During demonstrations against the exhibit this spring, state senator Walter Dudycz, one of the leaders of the protests, urged his supporters to express their displeasure to corporations that contribute to the Art Institute. School and museum officials say that they have lost about 700 individual memberships to the museum (less than 1 percent of the total) but that corporate contributions to the school and museum are actually up. Dudycz says, however, that several corporations have informed him that they are reviewing their policies of giving to the school.
Early this week, the Reader obtained the minutes from a recent meeting of the board of directors of the Midwestern Mucketymuck Corporation of Greater Lesser Chicagoland, operators of 132 Widgets-R-Us stores in Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin. Excerpted below are remarks of Mark M. Mucketymuck, chairman and chief executive officer, whose autobiography, Out of the Muck, Into the Bucks (the sequel to Don't You Fidget, I've Got Your Widget), written with William Novak, will be released next month.
"Fellow directors, in the past our company has donated generously to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. We did it because we feel an obligation to the community and to the education of the youth of our society in this maelstrom we call the late 20th century, and because we like pretty pictures. As most of you know, I have a very nice one over the couch in my office. You know the one, it's pastel and shows the people in the woods. Well, depends on how you look at it. My secretary says it's a picnic on a boat. Anyway, it goes with the yellow curtains and the blue of the lake when you look out the window. It's famous, an original. It's by an Impressionist. We bought it for $15,000 in 1967 and it was appraised early this year at $200,000. And you thought I didn't know art. Hah!
"Let me tell you, the picture of the people in the boat in the woods affords me great pleasure. It improves the quality of my life, which is the purpose of art, and I wish all my investments appreciated 750 percent in 22 years. I wish my son, who was born in 1967, had increased his worth 750 percent. Hah!
"As for that big round metal colossus in the employee cafeteria, don't ask me. The wife picked it out. And please quit hanging your umbrellas on it. They scratch.
"But now to the heart of things. I have heard some of you and some of our employees saying that Midwestern Mucketymuck should continue funding those scheming, naughty, dirty youths who profess to be artists. I don't need to recap the events of this spring. Suffice it to say that one of those children put a flag on the floor and made it easy to walk on. The flag is just a symbol, he said.
"To those of you who have advocated going easy on the school, perhaps thinking of your own misspent youths at home, I ask you: how would we feel if one of our rivals put our logo, our symbol of quality, on a flag and put the flag on the floor and told people to walk on it? We ought to have a law against that, don't you think? In fact, McElroy over in legal affairs is looking into it.
"After all, my friends, what is an artist? An artist is somebody who makes beautiful pictures that increase in worth and raise the quality of all of our lives. Everyone would have been happy if this student had done this. But lo! He saw fit to answer the red siren call to transform the American flag into a rug!
"And what came of it? Not the sweet melodies of the angels, nor the divine raptures of the best minds of our community. We saw politicians making fools of themselves. Is that why we fund one of the best-known art schools in the country, so that politicians can make fools of themselves?
"You also had students thinking about the First Amendment and questioning our long-cherished symbols of patriotism. Is this why we have funded the High Mucketymuck Scholarship for the past five years? We want the youngsters to explore new frontiers in the use of pastels and airbrush technique and advertising, through the graphic arts. As I tell my secretary, I hope not too graphic--they're just kids. Hah! We want them to brighten and lighten this vale of tears we call Planet Earth. We don't want them worrying their multicolored little heads about the Bill of Rights, do we?
"Therefore, I have decided to suspend the High Mucketymuck Scholarship. Let the students who can afford it become artists. The ones who can't come up with the tuition should find other work, good honest work, suitable to their class. That's the American way, survival of the fittest.
"Don't get me wrong. We need artists. Our company needs them and the universe needs them. As the Midwestern Mucketymuck Corporation of Greater Lesser Chicagoland tears down the rain forests in that big wet dirty country down south, and cuts acres of trees in our own glorious Pacific northwest, we want someone to show what the bounty of nature used to look like.
"It's in our own best interest."