February 2009 Archives
I might also thank Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma for giving us a platform on which to debate whether the arts are worth being a part of President Obama’s massive stimulus bill. Coburn is leading the charge against arts funding for public schools as well as $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts.
Remer says that the “arts are fundamental to the cognitive, affective, physical, and intellectual development of all our children and youth. They are a moral imperative.” I agree. But Coburn is one of the many whittling down the bill on the basis that it’s not stimulus, it’s spending — a distinction that presents an interesting rhetorical challenge. How do we make the case that the arts are a stimulus?
There are two implied strategies that I find interesting. One is by Christopher Knight of the LA Times. Funding culture stimulates job creation, he says:
Collectively [the arts] employ almost 6 million people. Crisis is a time for boldness, not timidity, and few recall an economic crisis quite like this one. So art museums, symphonies, theaters, dance companies and other cultural centers should get a huge infusion of funds.
The other strategy comes from Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune.
The arts have an implicit value to Americans, Jones says. Yet …
… [s]omehow it has come to be broadly accepted that concrete, asphalt and medicine for the body (as distinct from the heart and soul) have greater moral worth.
More arts means more jobs. The arts are morally good. The arts advocacy community has done little to press this case, even though it would challenge conservatives’ own rhetoric. How can Coburn et al. not support jobs and morals?
Maybe this is a generational issue that’s slowly changing as the definition of the arts has changed and as the economics of America change.
For a long, long time, the arts have been categorized as enrichment, something extra to be added to an education curricula whose objective was to produce good workers. That period has passed and the role of the arts has changed too.
So much research has been done to show that arts are more than enrichment. They are vital, like math. It makes sense that a stimulus package with sights on long-term affects would set in place mechanisms that serve our economy and our souls.
Younger people know this intuitively, because they are “creative” all the time. The modes of Web 2.0 require people to create — blogs or music or remixes or what have you. These of course may be of dubious quality and worth, but they are nevertheless creative and those who engage in the of Web 2.0 — meaning millions of people — understand the arts, that they are more than “pork,” that they are the center.
Poetry tends to be a very polite enterprise, especially among the people who write it. It’s refreshing then to read an excoriating critique of Elizabeth Alexander, the poet tapped to deliver a new poem for Barack Obama’s historic inauguration.
The critic, Jack Foley, writing an open letter in the Contemporary Poetry Review, thinks it was a squandered opportunity. He puts the blame squarely on Alexander, saying that if you’re going to be the center of the universe, and be the spokesperson for poetry, why not write a great poem, not a forgettable one?
Here was an opportunity to show millions of people — millions of people — what an exciting thing poetry is. Look at what you gave them. Look at what you gave all those people who think poetry is dull, genteel, a form of little interest — a dead thing.
But I’m not convinced it was wasted, because I’m not convinced her poem could have made much of an impact from the outset. Even if her poem had been unbelievable, it would still have mostly fallen on deaf ears. I’m not judging Alexander or her poem or our culture’s receptivity to poetry; I’m observing a fundamental law of show business: Be careful what act you follow.
By the time Alexander took the podium, I’d stopped listening. Her poem came right after the new president’s speech. By then, I was emotionally spent. And I have no doubt many, many thousands of others were, too. If Alexander was going to push poetry forward into American consciousness, she’d probably need to knock our socks off before Obama, not after. As it is, she left poetry pretty much where she found it.
Fortunately, we have a president who knows how to turn a phrase. Maybe after four years of speeches — and he’s going to give a lot of them to save the economy — more people will disagree that poetry is “dull, genteel, a form of little interest.”
Lindsay Koob, the Charleston City Paper’s music critic, reports that the board of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra wants to cut $500,000 from its 2009-2010 budget, probably more. Ultimately, the proposal might mean cutting musicians from the roster.
Here’s part of Koob’s report this weekend. More tomorrow:
It’s too early to itemize the exact consequences - but it’s probably safe to say that we can expect a smaller core of musicians (currently around 46) and fewer concerts. What about glamorous soloists? Staff cuts? Venue changes? Educational efforts? Right now, there’s no telling.
What won’t suffer, according to the CSO’s powers-that-be, will be the CSO’s vaunted quality and reputation. We’re talking bare survival, folks - and the CSO (and Charleston Stage & Ballet Theatre) are far from the only American artistic entities that teeter on the brink of collapse in these desperate times.
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Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
rock culture approximately
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
No genre is the new genre
David Jays on theatre and dance
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
John Rockwell on the arts
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Martha Bayles on Film...
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds
Jerome Weeks on Books
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world
Public Art, Public Space
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog