Friday, May 29, 2009

How to Defend the Arts during Economic Crisis

It doesn't really matter what kind of economic state the country is in. Whether we're basking in the benefits of a dot com bubble or we're swimming against the tide of a tidal wave of economic loss, the cliche is that of the penniless poet, right? The starving artist? And the same may be true of arts organizations, or at least, that's the way we talk to one another as we see the organizations of our fellow artistic friends falter and close. So how do we talk to those who do not innately understand the value of the arts in order to protect the arts? It makes me think of Politicians are from Venus, Artists are from Mars. The newest defense-- a solid and logical one-- has its benefits, and only a few concerns.

Tying the arts to the economy is an eye-opener for those who are committed to the bottom line as the ultimate qualifier for success. When the owner of Prince of Pizza on Route 1 explains that hundreds of school children stop at Prince after morning matinees at the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, and now, without NSMT, pizza would stand to lose profits... well, all of a sudden the arts make "cents." The phrase "dinner and theatre" is one of economic stimulus. And beyond the audience, theatres purchase textiles, lumber, lights, microphones, print and marketing, and on and on. And with regional organizations popping up to promote and foster the Creative Economy, suddenly Mars and Venus are speaking a common language.

But will we forget our language of origin? We still have an important message to convey, while we forage for what we need to survive. The arts are not a luxury, not an indulgence, not extra. Arts are the sustenance of our souls. It is the place where humans connect: emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, holistically. Music, theatre, dance, art, writing-- these endeavors challenge us to define our human existence, and to find connections across cultures, and within the individual. It does all that, and pays for the pizza.

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