A Public Conversation Among People Who Care
March 09, 2005Supply and demand
New voices joining (welcome Robert Lynch) and others leaving (wish I had a chance to ask Joli to give a more tangible, practical definition of what "expressive logic" sounds like). Robert's first post lays out a good, workable three-part division of much of what has been said here. At various places, in different contexts, we have been talking about the deeply felt personal passion for the arts, strategies for getting new audiences to share that passion, and the ongoing work of convincing public officials to use public resources to make the arts accessible to everyone. Americans for the Arts does the unglamorous business of lobbying, and it's all too easy for people who are already deeply in love with art to find this sort of business a bit vulgar and dull, even anti-art in its practicality and compromise. I'm glad that this work is being done, but as someone who responds to art in an essentially erotic, sensual way, it seems a zillion miles away from anything that I know or care about music, theater, painting, dance. I need art in the same way that other people need bookies and dealers, so I 've read many of the posts in this web conversation with a sense of alienation, as if they're happening on a strange planet where all the usual laws of nature are reversed. Of course, if I can't get my fix, I'll be the first one on the barricades.
I confess I found the Rand study a crushing bore. I respect its logic, and ultimately, I agree with the basic conclusion that if we can't communicate to new audiences the essential, intrinsic pleasures of art, we're not going to have new audiences. And yes, the problem is not supply, it's demand. But I'm skeptical of the idea that we can create demand through new programs, new educational efforts, new sources of support for arts groups. All of those are worthy efforts, and I officially support them (because they keep artists busy, and put food on their tables). But a deep, ongoing, sustaining passion for art requires a personal need for it that is (from my experience) generated internally, as a reaction against ugliness in the world. Our politicians are already doing admirable work in creating that need. They deluge us with lies and hypocrisy, cliches and euphemisms. They insult our intelligence and betray our trust. From this fertile ground arises the need for art. Needless to say, popular culture is also doing admirable work on this front as well.
Posted by pkennicott at March 9, 2005 05:56 PM