I've been reading some fascinating things recently, each in its own way pointing to the value of the Arts in our society.
1. Alain de Botton's The Consolations of Philosophy
In the chapters featuring Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, de Botton points out the importance that both philosophers place on the role of Art and Artists. As Schopenhauer struggled to find a way to explain and cope with the pain caused by love, he turned to Artists. As de Botton explains it, from Schopenhauer's point of view, "Artists and philosophers not only show us what we have felt...they give shape to aspects of our lives that we recognize as our own. They explain our condition to us and thereby help us to be less lonely with, and confused by it...through creative works, we can at least acquire moments of insight into our woes..." Exactly.
Nietzsche used the evolution of great Artists to illustrate his philosophy that one cannot experience true pleasure without also experiencing true suffering. One can have all the talent in the world, but without the pursuit of that talent in the face of adversity (such as Stendhal's perseverance with writing - it took more than a decade of producing "poor plays" before writing one his masterworks, Le Rouge et le noir), success is not possible. Whether you agree with Nietzsche or not, the central place of Art and creativity in his arguments is impossible to miss.
2. Archein, by Joe Costello
This blog is about political economy, and concentrates on the situation in the United States, but what makes Mr. Costello's point of view different than most is its holistic nature. In analyzing the current economic and political situation, he doesn't simply focus on the movements of economic indicators and the actions of politicians. Rather, he writes about the implications of these things to society as a whole. As a result, he often brings in points about history and the social consequences of economic and political developments, including the vital need for creativity.
In his essay-length post, The Design Economy, Mr. Costello points out that in the future "...people as both individuals and collectively as associations are going to be valued as creators, editors, communicators and decision makers, in short we must revalue the citizen." Who better to lead the way in this than Artists, who foster this idea in everything they do? I believe Mr. Costello would support this notion.
3. Hill Strategies Arts Research Monitor, Vol. 9, No. 3, October 2010
This latest bulletin includes a summary of results from recent Canadian and US studies on arts participation and public perception. Of greatest interest to me were the results of the The Arts and Heritage in Canada – Access and Availability 2007 (link provided in the bulletin itself) study from Canadian Heritage, which said that 91% of Canadians believe that "Governments should provide 'support for arts and culture in Canada' ". This speaks to strong public support for the maintenance of government support for what we do and its value to Canadians, especially since the same study showed that Canadians strongly believed that it was Government's responsibility to assist with maintaining accessibility to the Arts. (Note that I place the onus here not on organizations to maintain this accessibility at the expense of financial responsibility. Rather, it is important for governments to assist with making the Arts accessible via helping to defray the cost of producing the Art that Canadians value as an intrinsic part of their society.)
4. Wolf Brown "On Our Minds", October 6, 2010
On the subject of revenue streams and support for the Arts, among the subjects of Wolf Brown's bi-weekly bulletin is the topic of Diversification of Revenue, something that is often required of Arts organizations by various funders and is regarded largely as a positive. An interesting perspective on this topic is provided via the link to Carla Miller's blog post on the subject. Ms. Miller is head of the Nonprofit Finance Fund in the US. The focus is not specifically on the Arts, but on all types of non-profit organizations. However, what she writes about is certainly relevant to anyone in the Arts. The comments by others who have read this post are also extremely interesting and indicate that there is no definitive opinion on this topic. Reading through these comments also reminded me of some of the key differences in the "culture of philanthropy" between the US and Canada.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!