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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Executive director of Theatre Communications Group
Managing consultant of AEA Consulting
Director of the Curb Center, Former Chair, NEA
Professor, University of Tulsa, Author: "Is Art Good for Us?"
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Culture critic, Washington Post
Director, Museum of Modern Art
Robert L. Lynch
President, Americans for the Arts
Director, Bolz Center, University of Wisconsin
Russell Willis Taylor
President, National Arts Strategies
Gifts of the Muse
Free access to the full RAND study at the core of this conversation, funded by the Wallace Foundation. An executive summary is also available. Other Wallace Foundation publications and reports are available through its Knowledge Center.
Top arts researchers will come together to present and dissect the latest data at Measuring the Muse, an unprecedented National Arts Journalism Program-Alliance for the Arts conference at Columbia University.
The Values Study
A collaborative effort of 20 Connecticut arts organizations, the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, and facilitator/author Alan S. Brown. The effort trained arts leaders to interview key members of their constituency, to discover what they valued about the creative experience -- in their own words. The process was sponsored by The Wallace Foundation's State Arts
Partnerships for Cultural Participation (START) Program.
An initiative of London-based think tank, Demos. This effort brought cultural and policy leaders together to discuss the public value of culture in the UK. Resources include (with a downloadable briefing report by Adrian Ellis), a collection of speeches from the event in June 2003, and a summary report by John Holden called Capturing Cultural Value.
The Arts and Economic Prosperity
The 2002 report and related resources assessing the economic impact of America's nonprofit arts industry, based on surveys of 3,000 nonprofit arts organizations and more than 40,000 attendees at arts events in 91 cities in 33 states, plus the District of Columbia.
The Value of the Performing Arts in Ten Communities
A project of the Performing Arts Research Coalition, researched by the Urban Institute, exploring measures of value in specific cities across the United States. Reports are available for download.