Are the arts about selling tickets to shows or about art? Of course performances and exhibitions don’t happen if they don’t have money to be produced, but – as evidenced at an arts marketing conference where I recently spoke – the business of selling tickets seems often to determine the measure of success rather than the art. “Art” is a positioning for selling tickets.
I’m currently working on a project that involves creative people outside the arts, and many of them seem to have disdain not for art but for the formal artist class. To these tech and science people – whose success depends on creative innovation – artists’ claims to public good seem little more than strategy for selling their shows. And from the tech perspective, the public good the arts provide – next to the creativity they employ fighting cancer or inventing the next civilization-changing app – seems meager.
They understand how their creativity has to have impact (and techies talking about how their products are going to “make the world a better place” have become a cliche) because their success depends on it. To those outside the arts, though, it’s often tough to see the larger value that artists talk about for their work beyond the ticket sale. And even if there is a larger value, what does it have to do with them?
So artistic leadership. At a time when creativity is busting out all over and astonishing discoveries about how the world works are changing how we interact with it, are our artists central to understanding how the world is changing or are they little more than buskers trying to beckon our attention while the world goes on about its business?