Sunday, August 2, 2009

August 02, 2009

 

DON'T QUIT!

Hello everyone

"And the beat goes on.............."

IT WILL GET BETTER

There was a news item this morning about the discovery of two new works penned by Mozart as a child (click here: www.news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090802/ap_on_en_mu/eu_austria_new_mozart ) The discovery of heretofore hidden art of any kind is always a cause for celebration - and not surprisingly so, for the arts are one of the only human endeavors important enough to survive over time. No one remembers the local politicans or even minor celebrities of days long gone, no one cares about age old disputes and fights, no one bothers with the petty news stories of previous eras. None of any of those mundane daily things from people's lives in the past matter; all are irrelvant, boring and of no consequence. And the same will likely be true of all we think is so important -- all the trivial nonsense we waste our time with across the planet each day. But the ART survives. The ART is what always survives, and sometimes it is the only thing that survives from the past of civilization. It is ART that expresses our higher and better instincts, and it is what separates us from other species, for only mankind creates art as both a commentary and challenge to our very existence at a given point in time; a thing of beauty and point of thought. How extraordinary. How wonderful to be a part - even a small part - of such a glorious enterprise.

But in times like we currently live in, it's hard to remember the joy and exhaltation of that gift.

The daughter of one of my best friends just graduated with a major in Dance from U.C. Irvine. She is very gifted and has danced most of her life, but came to the conclusion that she might be just this side of the level that it would take for her to have a successful life long career in the field. Still, she loves the arts with a passion, so she has determined that she wants to work in arts education. She just got a fellowship to work at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC starting next month. She is very excited about her prospects, and like most in her generation she is optimistic about the future - her future.

That the Millennials remain optimistic isn't surprising. The current recession and economic crisis hasn't impacted them to the extent it has Gen X and the Boomers. Few Millennials had investments which were harmed or compromised by the current downturn, and few were in the middle level management positions that were the first target of layoffs and downsizing. (See Pew poll on different age groups / different recessions - click here: www.pewsocialtrends.org/pubs/734/different-age-groups-different-recessions) I remember in the early 80's paying scant attention to the then recession and its aftermath, because, for the same reasons, it just didn't as directly impact me.

For those Gen Xers and Boomers in our sector, the times are more bleak and frightening. Money is so scarce that rare indeed is the arts organization that hasn't seen decreases in income and hasn't experienced cutbacks, layoffs, downsizing and other draconian measures to survive. Alas, despite all those efforts, many will not survive. There are literally thousands of lives being affected in very profound ways in the reality of that last sentence. The headlines gloss over the humanity of the stories behind the statistics - in our field as in others.

The cold, hard and sad reality is that we have lost hundreds of millions of dollars in funding support for the arts (from all sources) over the past three or four years. Some areas have been hit harder, some organizations have fared a little better. But hundreds of millions of dollars available just a short time ago, is not available today. If you take out that much money in funding and multiply it by several years, the overall impact is nothing less than a fundamental sea change in the paradigm of the entire provision of support for arts & culture in the country. We're hurting.

But there is some room for optimism - because the arts always survive. We may be the first cut, and often take big hits, but art is so critical to the human experience that the myopia and short sightedness of any given situation cannot for long harm the natural inclination of the arts to flourish. Like the daughter of my friend we need to remain optimistic. Our future is bright, even if it may not seem so right now.

Art created today will survive. And it will continue to be created. Who knows, some of it may be rediscovered in the future to the delight and wonder of those not yet even born. Not all we do will be of Mozart quality of course, but the very fact of creation is, itself, as important. And in that - what YOU do matters. It matters very much. For if you didn't do what you do, there would likely be less of an ecosystem that supports and sustains both creativity and access to that creativity. And there may be little more important to the future of our species.

So I salute you all, and counsel you not to give up. The cycle will come around again, and the arts will once again grow, and thrive. That will happen because of the nature of the value of art, and because of your hard work. And who knows we may have learned how to better protect ourselves for the future. You may have moved from where you are to somewhere different. Your organization may have had to start all over again. But we WILL survive. I know how down these times can be for many of you, but hang in there. It will get better and you who are on the front lines are the ones who ultimately will open the doors to making it better -- for yourselves, and for those young, gifted younger people out there like the daughter of my friend.

So I want to thank you. I want to thank you all very much. And when it gets so bad you just want to move on, please remember you are important, very important, and your work matters very much. And for those of you out there less threatened by the times, please, try to lend a hand to those of our own who need it right now if you possibly can, even if just to offer an encouraging word.

Have a good week.

Don't Quit
Barry

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