Keeping the Arts Alive In Times of Strife

sylvie guillem at sadler's wells in londonAn article in today’s NY Times interviews several European theatre and festival directors who conclude “people turn to art in difficult times.” They note that while London, Madrid and Greece have seen riots and demonstrations over the summer, attendance at art events has soared.

At the same time, they note that government funding for such events continues to drop. “There is no doubt that the current crises that beset Europe are going to have a major effect on the arts. State support for culture — long posited as a taxpayer’s right, like decent roads or health care — is showing distinct signs of erosion, with a move toward the American fund-raising model, which suggests that art is a luxury to be paid for by those to whom it matters.”

What is most edifying is seeing how artistic directors of major programs react to this reality. Rather than throw in the towel, they become even more passionate about their mission of bringing art to the people.

The artistic director of the Athens Epidaurus Festival says, “We can’t start closing things down…people go to the arts more than usual during a crisis.” Indeed, the Festival would expand its offerings this year. Regarding content, Sadler’s Wells artistic director in London faces the challenge of not turning to conservative fare to attract funding stating, “It’s the new that excites people, not a feeling of safety.” While the artistic director of France’s “Crossing the Line Festival” sees government funds being funneled to big institutions that provide a public illusion of culture, his company strives to develop an infrastructure for artists to develop work.

Indeed, the need for the human spirit to express itself through art is one of our most enduring qualities. In the face of obstacles to art being both created and presented to the public, one can only applaud those who persevere in keeping the arts in our lives.

For the full article (“Europe Braces for a Shift in the Arts,” NY Times, by Roslyn Sulcas):

by William Repicci

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