State of the Arts in the New Economy

Everything is changing all the time. Recently change has accelerated in the approach to a historic presidential election in the United States. The state of the economy has revived talk of the “New Deal.” One aspect of the New Deal, for ten short years, that was highly beneficial to arts professionals was an unprecedented role for the Federal Government as a patron of the arts. WPA Federal Theatre Project and New Deal Public Art Projects put thousands of artists to work in various disciplines. It is apparent that radical change is on the horizon as we collectively restructure our infrastructure. I would like to see the Arts take its rightful role, not to drain the economy but revive and rebuild it with the inclusion of new principles.

Geoffrey Lean, the Environment Editor for the Independent in London wrote an article about a Green New Deal, which is a promising and possibly positive development in the economic upheaval being experienced world wide. He states that “Top economists and United Nations leaders are working on a “Green New Deal” to create millions of jobs, revive the world economy, slash poverty and avert environmental disaster, as the financial markets plunge into their deepest crisis since the Great Depression.” I believe that the Arts also have a role to play in the revival of the economy.

According to Americans for the Arts, “…the Economic Impact of Nonprofit Arts and Culture Organizations and Their Audiences documents the key role played by the nonprofit arts and culture industry in strengthening our nation’s economy. This study demonstrates that the nonprofit arts and culture industry is an economic driver in communities—a growth industry that supports jobs, generates government revenue, and is the cornerstone of tourism.”

Now is the time to advocate for a different perspective on what is important to us and future generations. Don’t allow the Arts to continue to be looked upon as charities, when in reality artistic activity can lead the way to economic prosperity. Arts professionals of all kinds should seek ways to work with arts councils, arts commissions, departments of cultural affairs, arts agencies, planning agencies, cultural centers and museums to advance a common cause.

Remember that it is our imaginations that lead us. We’re traveling down a road with bends. Even though we can’t always see where we’re going, if we know where we want to go, then we’ll be more than half way to our destination!

Communication and Concentration of Creative Construction

None of us created the world we were born into. We didn’t get to decide what kind of talents we were born with either. You could argue that those of us who have chosen to create art in all its myriad forms, were destined to be creative artists. Or you could argue that anyone who spends the majority of their time “working” on things that don’t generally turn a profit, is not fulfilling their destiny, just crazy. What’s the point? Why do you put enormous energy into pulling off yet another theatre production? Why do you shell out more money for more paint supplies? Why do you keep going to poetry open mics or writing books that never make it to the New York Times bestseller list? Surely it’s not for the money.

I’ve been thinking about money lately. Who doesn’t think about money whether they want to or not? Those printed pieces of paper that are only worth something because we are told they represent worth, they cause a lot of heartache either way. If you have too much it transforms the people around you. If you don’t have enough your life can become a tragedy. This system that we were all born into here in America dictates that if you are ambitious about producing and presenting big arts projects you will have to go out with your hat out and ask people, companies, corporations and governments for money, because your work will not have any dollar value on its own. It’s time to get away from all that and find a different way to manifest what must be expressed.
Back in the nineties I wrote a few grant applications for a not-for-profit that required many hours of preparation, and gave no assurance that there would be a reward at the end. Many not-for-profits operate solely on budgets with strings attached to foundations and other charitable entities. The arts are nothing but a charity in the United States. Few public school children get any kind of arts education these days. Even less people even seem to care. But I care. And if you’ve read this far, you care too. It occurred to me that one thing we can do as a group is begin to think about ways to operate without money, or beyond money or even in spite of money.
Last week I brought up the idea of an international event on the scale of the Olympics, for the Arts. Now I know this is a far stretch, but can you imagine if it could be mounted without any corporate funding? Could it be done without asking anyone for money? Maybe, maybe not. I do know that it would take cooperation and creativity. When we talk about a concentration of power, we are usually referring to a concentration of resources which a few people have control over. They’re the ones who get the lion’s share of the money that’s in circulation. What do artists have? The power of creativity. Creativity is a great resource or renewable energy. It’s also the thing that can get us out from under the boot, and elevate the artist to an appropriate stature in society.
What do you think? Should the government solve our problems? Should corporations solve our problems? Can we communicate with each other and create new avenues for freedom of expression? Please join me on Tuesday, September 9 at 8pm PST, for a call in radio show discussing the arts and arts professionals in today’s world. You can also start a new topic or join one of the existing ones on our bulletin board. I will refer to suggestions and ideas posted on the bulletin board during the radio show, and use the bulletin board as a tool to continue the discussion between each second Tuesday of the month radio show.
Wishing you Peace and Poetry
Martha Cinader Mims

Changing and Changing Again

The internet has only been around for about ten years. I didn’t grow up with a cell phone or a laptop. I still wrote my essay assignments in high school by hand. I still have a writer’s bump on my right middle finger to prove that I wrote some long essays. I read books, old books, new books, used books, trashy books, great books. I listened to records and spent time looking at album covers. Sometimes I went to the library. Being into artistic type things, dreaming of being a writer, I was warned that I wasn’t likely to make much of a living like that. The same was true for teens like me, definitely not jocks, or physicists either, all across the country. Continue reading