This Week: Why has dance attendance fallen off a cliff in New York?… Applications for MFA programs are down and things are looking bleak… Has our ad-supported business model for content killed quality?… There’s a big surge in art that addresses political issues… Bob Dylan, and what he means.
- What’s Caused A Precipitous Drop In Dance Attendance In NYC? New York is the center of the dance world. More companies, more dancers, more performances, more audience. In dance, there’s New York and then there’s the rest of the world. So it’s particularly alarming that ticket sales to dance event in the Big Apple have fallen through the floor. A new study by the dance service organization Dance/NYC says that paid attendance is down 20 percent over a six-year period. The study monitors 172 dance organizations over the period and found that the biggest declines seem to have been in organizations with budgets over $5 million.
- Applicants For MFA Programs Are In Big Decline: There has been a huge increase in the number of MFA programs for artists over the past 20 years. Many colleges added programs in anticipation that student enrollment rates would continue to climb. That’s not proving to be the case. Demographically there are fewer people of college age. Tuitions have increased dramatically making programs difficult to afford. And many artists and experts question whether the programs are necessary for having a successful art career. So applications are down. “This year is the worst in memory, like perhaps in this millennium,” said one MFA program head, adding that his impression is that schools that were once getting two applications for every seat may now be getting less than one. There is a statistical dropoff, which is projected to take place through 2025, in the number of US students of college age. My understanding is that those numbers are going off a cliff. We’re headed for the end of a baby boom. There are macroeconomic forces at play that are conspiring to roil higher education profoundly.”
- Has Our Ad-Supported Content Model Destroyed Support For Quality Content: “There is a strange business model called advertising-supported media that was once restricted to a small area of our life, like newspapers, but now it is taking over every area of our life. You typically would just pay for stuff, like newspapers or movies. The idea of selling a captive audience had to be invented. And the normative question is: What are the costs of everything being free? Are we paying in other ways? There is a covenant that, in exchange for free stuff, we expose ourselves to advertising. But is that covenant broken?”
- Arts And Politics? Wow – The Political Use Of Art Is Skyrocketing: Many stories this week focused on the role of arts in politics. First – the formation of an arts super-PAC: “We believe that artists, and art, play an important role in galvanizing our society to do better,” says For Freedoms on its website. “We are frustrated with a system in which money, divisiveness, and a general lack of truth-telling have stifled complex conversation… Can you use the arts to further American interests? The answer is yes. “When Russians were asked [in a survey] what they liked about Americans, they answered, in essence, ‘Not much.’ But when asked what Americans do well, oddly, one of the top answers was ‘musicals.’”…A new report says that arts and culture make cities safer: “According to the report’s findings, the best measure to prevent such negative effects” of rapid urbanization as social inequality, lack of parks and public spaces, the growth of slums, and even violence “is to fully integrate cultural components into urban strategies from the start.”… The arts are also responding to injustices at home, including a series of plays responding to Ferguson: “[The projects’ founders] began reaching out to playwrights around the U.S. to see if they would write new short plays to add into the mix, and received dozens, including works from Neil LaBute, Dominique Morisseau, and Lynn Nottage.” Likewise another theatre effort after the Orlando shootings: “The only criterion was that the plays should be around 3 to 5 minutes. By mid-August, 70 short plays had come in from the likes of Lindsey Ferrentino, Neil LaBute, Mia Chung, and Nathan Alan Davis.
- Bob Dylan. Yes – Bob DYLAN!: No American has won the Nobel Prize for decades, and speculation before the awarding of this year’s prize even suggested the Nobel committee had a bias against American writers. There are so many logical candidates. But the selection of Bob Dylan surprised the hell out of anyone. It’s not that he hadn’t been mentioned before, but no one had really taken it seriously. While some literary traditionalists voiced muted objection, the announcement was generally positive. “I have to admit that the judges have done something remarkable. And you have to say,chapeau! For they have thrown the cat among the pigeons in a most delightful manner. First they have given the prize to someone who wasn’t courting it in any way, and that in itself is cheering. Second, in provoking the backlash of the purists who demand that the Nobel go to a novelist or poet, and the diehard fans who feel their literary hero has been short changed, they have revealed the pettiness, and boundary drawing that infests literary discourse.” And Dylan’s reaction? There wasn’t one. He didn’t mention the award at a concert this week. And he hadn’t actually talked to the Nobel committee, so he hasn’t formally accepted the honor.