I'm back in NYC, for the time being. But I'm about to be a dance critic again, albeit briefly. Details coming when the plan is finalized. I miss everyone, and the dance scene, in SF.
Jeffrey: I know exactly what you mean. But I'm playing devil's advocate a bit, after that 2001 REAP study at Harvard that showed the arts return very little in academic achievement (of course this is yet another "study" that finds data to support its hypothesis.) What I'm saying is, what is the arts DON'T return the economic or academic benefit promised? Then those who grudgingly funded the projects will be turned off for life. Producing arts events and maintaining arts groups and performing arts centers is extraordinarily expensive to a community, and some pundits are starting to say the "arts as a community's crown jewel -- holy trinity of symphony-ballet-opera" model is now outdated. Of course, that's also just one side of the argument.
And though there's no shortage of studies supporting the economic/academic hypotheses, it must be noted that they're of course usually funded and put together by those who stand to benefit (and this isn't necessarily a bad thing) by producing/teaching/earning from their own arts edu programs.
I'm trying to start down a different path, the one represented here by the "great civilizations can be measured by their great art" argument. How can that sentiment be tweaked into the "what's in it for me" tone of the economic/academic argument? And what if we took all the money spent marketing the excessive number of arts events that aren't drawing an audience, (and sorry...some arts edu programs) and instead put it toward a substantial number free or low-cost tickets, easily obtainable to those with no resources to attend? I think a lot of people with only a passing interest could get hooked by that kind of exposure.
When I was writing a story on the high salaries paid to orchestra execs and conductors, I spent an hour before the concert talking to people walking away from the box office with their tickets. Several said that their attendance was a rare event, as they couldn't afford tickets regularly. All said tickets were too expensive. And all were shocked -- and I mean jaw-dropping shocked -- to learn what the folks running the concert were earning. (NY Phil executive director, $750,000; conductor, $2.3 million for 14 weeks work, while the group was running a deficit)
But my point is this: if free, or low-cost tickets were made available, perhaps in places like schools and neighborhood centers in *all* kinds of neighborhoods, would people come, and develop an interest? You have to be *phenomenally* interested in something to pay $50-120 for a ticket to a two-hour event. But to spend $10-20 is another matter. Back in the 1940s and 1950s, the New York Philharmonic offered very low-cost tix to its Lewisohn Stadium concerts, which are still fondly remembered by a broad cross-section of older New Yorkers. Aside from the parks concerts (which draw huge crowds because they're free) they're not much left for people of ordinary means to attend.
So what do you guys think? Can we translate the wonder of the arts into something that clearly benefits the observer, without invoking the economic/academic argument? How?
--Author, "Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music" (Grove/Atlantic Press, July 2005)