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It’s Not the Current Economy That’s Hurting the Arts …


by Jerome Weeks 30 Sep 2008

… it’s the one we’ve had since 9/11. So says Michael Boehm in the Los Angeles Times. What many of them called “the perfect storm” hit in 2001. The tech-bubble burst, the World Trade Center was attacked, and economic recession ensued, discouraging donors and ticket buyers, curtailing government grants and leading to layoffs, cancellations, deferred […]

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What many of them called “the perfect storm” hit in 2001. The tech-bubble burst, the World Trade Center was attacked, and economic recession ensued, discouraging donors and ticket buyers, curtailing government grants and leading to layoffs, cancellations, deferred expansion plans and downsized theatrical seasons and productions.

Charitable gifts to the arts rebounded with the stock market, but in many cases attendance did not, as the public’s fascination with the Internet and home electronics accelerated.

The bottom line is that worries never left, experts say, so arts decision-makers didn’t need the current financial crisis to snap them to attention. There has been an ongoing urgency to face the new music and dance — not the old-fashioned waltz but steps unimagined before Necessity called.

And in a passage relevant to the current troubles of the Texas Ballet Theatre, Boehm adds:

Dance, in fact, is the canary in the coal mine. During the 1990s, says John Munger, research director for the national service organization Dance/USA, it was typical for no more than six to 10 of the 80 or so companies with budgets over $1 million to cut spending in any given year. Since 2001, at least 20 a year and as many as 44 have been compelled to downsize.

Image from outcastpop.blogspot.com.

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  • I would say that it’s time for a revolution in the arts – that includes new ways of presenting them and paying for them.
    Trying to do what’s failed before, over and over, is not the way to go.

    • Actually, this piece left me wondering which was the true aberration: the arts spending in the 1990s or the economic constraints, post-9/11. I don’t deny the evidence for something resembling a “perfect storm” battering all those tubas and tutus and ticket sales. However, it could also be the case that the high-tech bubble, media deregulation and the subsequent free-for-all it engendered, as well as skyrocketing housing and other economic factors, contributed to an inflated sense of available cash and credit in the decade prior.

      Perhaps the arts community would have been better served, in the long run, if we (as well as Wall Street and the U.S. Government) had noticed the warning signs: “The looming disaster in the mirror may be closer than it appears.”