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June 13, 2007

So many changes, so many questions...

by Vanessa Bertozzi

I was struck by Doug's comment:

Indeed, some of the more interesting points in the book seem to argue that some of the ways we interacted with art in the 20th Century might be the anomaly rather than the time we're in now. We might, in fact, be returning to more traditional principles. Still, it's a scary time to be creating "content" of any sort. There isn't a creative industry that isn't seeing its business model being reinvented, the rules being changed.

What is the future of the arts--its place in our society, how it's funded, who participates--when boundaries between amateur and professional break down? When the rules of arts consumption change and business models break down? Do we have a meritocracy when it comes to deciding who gets heard and seen? Do we have a popularity contest? Or do we have a folk art?

Henry Jenkins' and my chapter in Engaging Art looks specifically at the ways in which today's young people interact with art and participate in fan cultures. We compare it to a time before mass-media, when an art being "grassroots" wasn't self-consciously trying to salvage something lost. Today see a very active and engaged generation coming up. But who will be a professional artist if changes in the way Americans create and access art continue along such a trajectory? What will our culture and way of life look like if the institutions and ways of doing business in the arts change radically?

What's the root of this feeling that something "scary" is happening at this particular moment? Perhaps it is that the financial mechanisms for the arts may be altered--the scary glimmers of bankruptcy. Or perhaps it is the fear of unknown degradation of a nuanced, sublime art, resulting in a corporate manufactured, homogenized, popular art. Perhaps these two things go hand in hand. Is there some other possibility? The changes are happening. I'd like to discuss roles supporters of the arts can play in making sure change can be something positive--and a little less scary.

Posted by vbertozzi at June 13, 2007 9:11 PM


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