I go offline for the weekend, and come back to read this! Some really thought-provoking ideas here. And the courtesy caps have stayed on very nicely, thank you! In response to JwicJ, I still don't know how Japan's system of "national treasures" works. I don't know of any government that does or has done it "right." Because the US of A is (at least nominally) a democracy, perhaps the mudcats could develop a "cultural manifesto" that spells out why and how the arts should be supported (not the who or the when). If it got enough interest behind it, it might get congressional recognition, and in an election year in the "new millennium" (despite the fact that it really doesn't start 'til 2001!) who knows what magic might happen.
V (just ramblin' off at the keyboard on a Monday)