Michael Kaiser has a residence at the Ritz Carlton in Foggy Bottom. It was there at a long-ago reception that I pocketed a cloth cocktail napkin. Not on purpose, I just thought it was paper. Because why would anyone display wealth like that in a roomful of underpaid artis… Oh. Oh, nevermind. He doesn’t know, does he?
The Huffington article bothered me. Not only does it display the rampant delusion of a prominent American arts leader, this time it got nasty and personal. Ageism is always allowable, isn’t it? The entire narrative points a finger at Millennials for not being into [self-defined “high”] art. It makes the ridiculous assumption that all young people are stupid, drooling rabble, when in fact young people are more culturally savvy than ever. And I guarantee, Baby Boomers and beyond don’t know Verdi and Caruso either. Let’s take a journey through some of the article’s more choice phrases:
We in the arts face a major problem…
“We?” WE? Well, he said it right there. People “in the arts” do not include those under fifty, apparently. Not a very good way to start out.
… we now have an entire generation of young people who have had virtually no exposure to the arts. They do not go to theater, concerts, dance performances or operas.
In what universe? I work in theater and have played music since age ten. My dad is a musician, my brothers are all musicians, several generations of my relatives were musicians, my boyfriend is a musician. When I was a kid, my dad took me to Avery Fisher Hall to see Evelyn Glennie, Stanley Drucker and the New York Phil. When I was a teen, I had season tickets to the BSO with my family, I took art, drama and music, and went on class trips to see professional theater. As a young adult, I worked for an orchestra and several theaters, including the KC’s Sondheim Festival. I’m not unique. Why don’t I go to the Kennedy Center? I can’t afford regular tickets, I rarely know what’s playing, the things I do hear about are not appealing, the website is unfriendly, the building is unfriendly, the building is isolated, there isn’t much in the way of food or drink in the vicinity, and it takes a long time to get there on public transit. The Kennedy Center is not the only art source in town. I see live theater and music every week. And for things I cannot afford or get to, I sometimes watch YouTube. Get on the tech train.
I am constantly amazed at the low culture IQ of very bright and talented young people who have achieved a great deal in other realms.
I am constantly amazed at the low culture, technology, common sense, innovation and world-wise IQ of very bright and talented old people who have achieved a great deal in almost every realm.
It is easy to point to culprits…
Culprits? Ah yes, youth culture is a crime.
…the lack of arts education in our public schools…
Again, what universe? Formal arts education is a relatively new-fangled thing. My own parents didn’t get the amount of arts training I did—even in public school—nor were performing arts high schools and fine and liberal arts degrees commonplace then, as they are now. I took visual art, sculpture, drama and music in both private and public school, as did almost all of my schoolmates.
…the astonishing array of personal popular entertainment options that occupy the time of younger people…
I can smell the fear. Computers. Computers! COMPUTERS! This must be the millionth time I’ve heard this from an arts leader—computers, the Web, gaming are somehow all anti-art. I’ll never understand this. It’s as though a bunch of 13-year-olds used to go to the symphony, but now they just stay home and play Starcraft.
… and the ticket prices for concerts, plays and operas that are so high they keep many young (and old) people from attending.
Kaiser works for the Kennedy Center last time I checked. Why not start the “fight” right at home?
The arts have survived and grown in this nation because there is always a new group of middle aged people who replace their parents as our supporters…
Wrong. “The arts” as Kaiser understands them are new—brand new. The system was forged in recent decades by a few wealthy foundations and a government that was seeing rapid cultural change. It was sustained by a bountiful economy, and as quickly as it rose, so quickly is it falling. The Boomers did most of the institutional building and funding, and as they did with everything else, created an unsustainable climate out of their greed and live-in-the-now sensibility. Now they don’t seem to understand why “young people” can’t pick up their garbage. My grandparents didn’t give an eff about sustaining the opera. They had real problems like surviving the Great Depression and not getting shot by Germans. My great-grandparents also didn’t give an eff, because they were busy uprooting their entire way of life to come to this country. And also not get shot.
…But this phenomenon has only been maintained because each new generation cares about the arts when they are in a financial position to help us… Will they be there for us when we need them?
We might be too busy struggling to keep our jobs, pay the rent and make art for no pay.
We cannot do this alone. Our hope is that every major arts organization will join in this fight. The future of the arts in America is at stake.
Noooo! Major arts organizations need to go away. They are their own worst enemy.