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June 17, 2007

Some Comments from Readers

by Douglas McLennan

"Arts funding in Britain doubled from £198m when Labour came to power in 1997 to £411m in 2004. The articles also note that in 2004 French governmentl spending for the arts rose 5.9%, which was three times inflation. They also discuss the generous funding systems in other countries such as Finland. The economies of Spain and Ireland have skyrocketed since they entered the European Union. Their per capita increases in arts funding have been phenomenal. In general, there is much more lively discussion and debate in the European press about arts funding than in the States. The first clip is from the BBC's website, May 24, 2004 and is entitle "London is 'Classical Music Capitol.'" It argues that public funding actually helps orchestras stay in touch with the public's musical interests and tastes. read more
- William Osborne

The death of "experts" is certainly a good thing. it was 'experts" who told composers in the 1950s and '60s to write serialism or pack it in. Shame on them. On the other hand, I'm not sure that swinging all the way to the other side of the spectrum and saying, in effect, "everyone's an artist" is such a great thing, either. The issue is quality. read more
- Ken

It is assumed that a 20-year old who owns five CD's of their favorite rap star they will do anything to attend a live performance and meet the artist in person, but I find that the reverse is true for classical music. I have heard countless recordings of Elgar Cello Concerto in various contexts but I went and bought my own after I was smitten by a live performance. If only to capture an imperfect reflection of that catharsis experienced live. I bought my own recording of Hélèn Grimaud's performance of Shuman Sonata for Piano and Cello in E minor only after I met her in person and was fascinated by her intense emotional talk of love and friendship. I wonder if the binary opposition of live vs. recorded isn't slightly overrated. Do we really choose one over the other? read more
- Nastya

I have noticed that Americans often try to squirm out of international comparisons regarding arts funding by stating plainly false facts. One of the most common is listing numbers for the huge number of orchestras we supposedly have without noting that the vast majority of them are low paying semi-professional groups. And opera houses in our country are virtually non-existent. So where is the "extensive public funding based on tax policy" going? There must be an awful lot of phantom opera houses around here! And why the fatalistic attitude about increasing our public arts funding? What kind of leadership is that? I am sure people told Martin Luther King that blacks would achieve equality about the same time the US team wins soccer's World Cup. That might be true, but it didn't stop him from making significant progress for his people. Social justice is always a slow process. It doesn't happen if there aren't individuals with the guts and determination to make the first steps. read more
- William Osborne

I hate to speak in such blunt terms, but the naivety of this discussion is appalling, even if based on very common American delusions. You refuse to admit that our problems with the performing arts are systemic, due to our lack of public arts funding. It really is a form of willful denial with the result that your views are not only blinkered, they reflect a chauvinistic ethnocentricity... You all sit and come up with rather superficial, postmodern ideas that are supposedly revitalizing the arts while remaining absolutely silent about the lack of public funding which is what actually separates us from the entire industrial world, and which represents context that overwhelmingly shapes all of the problems you are discussing. (And again, I speak as someone using all of the new media technologies in the creation an presentation of his art.) Let's look at another example, the grotesquely low pay scales that so many of our major orchestras have. read more
- William Osborne

Our field looks for stars and strongmen (persons) to sell our art on the strength of charisma. But is that rational? Other nonprofits thrive by appealing to enduring values of community, the shared experience of growing together, shared conviction, recognition, personal validation, and even the desire for immortality (named a building lately?). Our audience is our orchestra. It is our community, the Petri dish in which we grow our art. It is absurd to treat it like a bunch of commoditized consumers whose wants and needs we need to figure out so we can sell to them. They are our partners. Maybe they don't fully understand the product, but we can still treat them with respect and recognize that they are important, and it's not just their ticket money. If we can shake off our delusions we can build strong, productive relationships with them that will become a solid foundation for our art. read more-
- James Hopkins

What concerns me is all this talk about "market share" and "audience engagement". The arts have evolved into a complex industry in which the commercial and nonprofit sectors have formed an alliance with talent, product and capital flowing from one to the other. Can economic and aesthetic values coexist comfortably? read more
- MadSilence

I don't have the arts' authority to pontificate either but I have observed a change from Art (capital A) as a product to art as a personal action. I think I'm seeing more art as verb than as noun.(?) The DIY approach to self expression through the arts seems to indicate (once again no stats or hard evidence)a desire to take ownership of the arts experiance on a personal level. It appears that it is not enough to live an arts life vicariously through the market blessed luminaries. Does this mean the definition of engagement is changing (or returning to a past approach)? I don't know. read more
- Tony Reynolds

To take part in this discussion click on the "comments" link below any post and write your comment. To see all the reader comments, go here.

Posted by mclennan at June 17, 2007 12:23 PM


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