Some Questions

By Midori
I am pleased to participate in this blog and hope that I come out of the week invigorated with new ideas and energy.

The basic question: "How can demand for the arts be increased?" My goodness, what a complex topic...

For starters, I would like to lay out some questions that I have concerning the subject. Most certainly, there won't be a definitive solution or a conclusion by the end of the week; however, I propose these questions to help focus my own mind and as beginning elements from which I correspond and respond to the blog.

Most importantly, how should we define "demand"? What is the method of assessment and evaluation for this "demand"? In music, is this about concert attendance? In the visual arts, is this about the number of visitors to special exhibits?

Are we somehow under the impression that the appreciation for the arts was greater in the past? On what basis do we make this assumption? If we are looking at the number of sold seats at a concert, for example, is this really an indication of the societal interest in music? Or does this tell us more about the societal changes that we face or the face of society-at-large? In other words, is the change between past and present about art or about everything else?

In the past, the arts were supported in different ways. Mozart's patrons (the "policy makers" of his day) weren't always thinking about increasing "demand" and the triangular "appreciation/availability/accessibility" status of music. But in the long run, how did their "policies" affect us? What great things they did for the world of music! The benefits their largesse brought forth were much farther reaching than their mortal selves.

What are the differences between "demand," "appreciation," and "engagement" for the arts? In engagement, I see a healthy and productive room for discussion, agreement, experimentation, and argument. These are all necessary for a true appreciation and for continuously-increasing understanding. For me, demand signifies a simpler, and therefore less effective and impacting, consumer mentality. Prioritizing simply in terms of increasing "demand," has much more to do with marketing and crowd pleasing. This is neither a very artistic nor intellectual pursuit.

Finally, I note in the opening blog by Laura Zackaras that "We argue that arts education needs to be understood in terms of its contribution to the cultural life of our country." I'd like to add that  "education" alone - and, much less so that which exists within the compulsory educational system - cannot make a dent in that cause. Rather, all educational efforts must be appreciated and supported in various, comprehensive, and complementing ways. Is the purpose of arts education in the public school systems, for example, solely about increasing demand and appreciation for the arts? Art for art's sake??? Or could it also have the potential to increase understanding and motivation for a changing/changeable world? In that case, arts education could be comprehended in terms of the wealth and the health of our country-at-large, reaching well beyond our cultural life.

December 1, 2008 8:40 AM | | Comments (1) |


This discussion is great but as long as we stay in the realm of big ideas we're never going to recognize the progress that is being made and the simple yet persistent steps that must be taken to achieve the visions we have for arts education.

In terms of shifting the canon of arts education to one which more accurately reflects the diversity of its students...a change in the teacher preparation requirements by state departments of education can be an important step toward achieving this shift.

We did this in Michigan with both the visual arts and music teacher preparation program standards, i.e. the bar higher education institutions need to meet to qualify for preparing teachers in a discipline.

As a result of this one bureaucratic tweaking of program requirements, it is no longer acceptable for teacher candidates to be prepared solely in the Western European canon or repertoire.

Has higher education suddenly shifted? It is slow and some resist but...when the state requires, compliance may precede enlightenment. The result is teachers with at least a basic understanding that there is a world outside our classrooms which may be more relevant to our students and from which we can all learn.

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This Conversation For decades, as teaching of the arts has been cut back in our public schools, alarms have been raised about the dire consequences for American culture. Artists and arts organizations stepped in to try to... more

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