What We Mean by Demand

By Laura Zakaras

What a rich exchange of ideas we've had this first day. I'm going to pick up on one strand of the conversation that surfaced early. Several of you have expressed discomfort talking about "demand," which we normally associate with commodities and marketing, in the context of the arts. Let me clarify what we mean by the term in our report and why we find it useful.

The demand side of the cultural system consists of individuals who seek encounters with works of art. They do so because they have an interest in the arts and the capacity to find value in the arts experience. How do people develop such interest and capacity? It can happen in a multitude of ways, but the most effective way is to reach young people with strong arts education in the schools that teaches both performance and appreciation skills.

The purpose of such education is not to sustain a market for the arts but to draw more Americans into long-term involvement in the arts that enriches their lives and contributes to the public sphere. But it is important that we recognize that arts learning also fuels the entire cultural system. This role of arts education has not been sufficiently understood, even by arts educators, as a number of you have pointed out. If we are to work together to change the status quo, we need to understand why investments in arts education are necessary to sustain a vibrant culture.

It will take a powerful coalition of cultural leaders--including directors of arts organizations and the business leaders that sit on their Boards, the arts policy community, artists, and the professional organizations that represent thousands of arts educators--to change state education policy. Only by working together can they persuade the general education community (and the American public) that the arts should be part of the basic curriculum of the public schools.

December 1, 2008 8:47 PM | | Comments (0) |

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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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