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Is there a Better Case for the Arts?
A Public Conversation Among People Who Care

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March 07, 2005

To Whom? For What Purposes?

Doug has asked us “Is there a better way to make a case for the arts?” and at this point we are risking talking at cross purposes because we’re losing track of a basic question—to whom are we making the case? How are we imagining the audience(s) for our rhetoric?

If we are trying to make the case to “the public,” then how do we think of that public? Are they unified or diverse? Organized by class or social status or education or taste culture? Are they predisposed for or against certain logics or arguments?

As Kennicott points out, we may imagine the public as a bunch of would-be art lovers who only need the experience of art to turn them into advocates. Or perhaps they are instead, as Ellenstein suggests, “the enemy,” actively engaged in hostility to art and art advocates.

Or perhaps the imagined audience is not “the public” but philanthropists and other funders. Or perhaps policy makers and various lawmakers. If so, do these groups need or deserve a different rhetorical approach, as several posts have suggested?

Or maybe we should stop trying to make a case to any of these groups, and instead just do art, with passion and conviction and ability, as Kelly and Midori have clearly suggested.

So should we be making ANY case for the arts (rather than just doing art) and if so, to whom should we imagine making this case? And once we get THAT figured out--for what purposes would we be making our case—to get their money? To put their butts in our seats? To get their support for school curricula? To get them to leave us alone?

Posted by jjensen at March 7, 2005 02:51 PM


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