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Saturday, June 21, 2003

Okay, No Vision, But What's The Problem?

By Jonathan Gresl

I, too was impressed by the McLennan article on arts funding, and was very intrigued by all of the insightful responses.

What was interesting to me about the discussion so far is that, while there was widespread agreement that arts institutions today are without vision, there is rather wide disagreement as to where the problem actually lies.  There were several takes on this:

  1. The problem is Arts advocates; whose stress of the economic benefits and social benefits made legislators unfamiliar and unsympathetic to the 'spiritual' benefits of art.
  2. The problem is the record company marketing; which has replaced the traditional 'highbrow' and high-value image of classical music with a supposedly trendy 'hipness' that devalues the art and its significance.
  3. The problem is artists; who find that the lucrative potential of 'commercial' art is too sweet to pass up.
  4. The problem is artists; whose hatred for anything 'commercial' is so great, they only value 'innovation', 'newness' and shock value, caring nothing for quality.
  5. The problem is arts patrons; who are snobs.

I also saw the dreaded term 'cultural elitism', which is blamed for keeping audiences away, although it seems Mr. Boriskin would disagree with that. It is a phrase I hear all the time, but I have never heard an adequate definition of it, nor it is something I see when I go to concerts or to the theater. I see great performers and an audience of people that are happy to be there, and I think that the 'cultural elitism' debate is a red herring. Anyway, this discussion just illustrates the problems of arts administrator, who is pulled in many directions about the future while still trying make payroll and keep the arts alive today.

Jonathan Gresl

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