Friday, January 2, 2009

Arts on a Budget

I'm always sympathetic to the job of an editor. I know how very difficult it is to cut things for space and still have them sound elegant and to the point. I'm not a writer who will complain about being edited (well, maybe every so often, but I treat such complaints as a vice to be eradicated). That said, sometimes I write something that I really like and there simply isn't the space for it to be published.

It is during those times, that I like to take advantage of this blog space. Yesterday's story was one I really liked--and I thank the editor who worked on it for squeezing in as much as she was able to. Here was the first half of the story (and then you'll have to go to the LSJ site--or better yet, go buy a copy of yesterday's paper) to read the rest of it:

Arts on a Budget

When difficult economic times force people to make difficult choices, participation in the arts can seem like a luxury. Yet, traditionally, people turn to the arts in hard times in search of solace, community, hope, escape, and creative solutions to the problems that they face.

“It seems that in difficult times, people want a connection on a different level,” said Leslie Donaldson, executive director for the Arts Council of Greater Lansing. “A difficult and an emotional time allows us to reflect differently and I think the arts help us do that in a lot of different ways.”

BoarsHead’s Artistic Director Kristine Thatcher agrees, pointing out that during the Great Depression, some of America’s best plays were written and performed. “It is balm for the soul. It brings comfort and hope. You get together live and in person and share an experience. That’s why theater exists—to examine who we are and who we want to be. We do that by looking at all of our stories.”

“It’s definitely not just a luxury,” said Melissa Kaplan, Lansing Community College Performing Arts Coordinator. “Art keeps me happy. It keeps me hopeful. It is inspiring. Being hopeful and inspired helps you ride out the rough times. It helps you see how you might better manage those rough times. Sometimes it is just a great escape to get away and be transported by a performance, whether it is a story or a concert or a dance or in an art gallery.”

David Rayl, associate dean in Michigan State University’s College of Music and the director of the choral programs, points out that there is an intangible value for audience members in both the arts in general and specifically the performing arts.

“Art is something that can teach us about the human condition. The arts have the power to make life better, to transform people in some way,” Rail said. “Any activities that build community rather than tear down community; any activities that give (people) the opportunity to work together to create beauty instead of working separately to create chaos—there is a very real value to society.”

Communal experiences are something that have grown increasingly scarce in a society still in the early throes of its love affair with technology.

“We don’t have that many communal experiences because everything can come to us,” said Emily Sutton-Smith, development director for Williamston Theatre. “We don’t have to see our neighbors. No one is looking at each other. That kind of communal experience is essential to our cultural identity. If we lose that…”

“We become like Wall-E,” said Managing Director Chris Purchis, finishing Sutton-Smith’s sentence. “Everyone in their own little hovercraft in their own little television, not knowing there are other people around.”

No matter how convinced people are of the value of art, there is still the hard reality of ticket prices, parking fees, and gas. Members of the arts community have several suggestions for people who are on tight budgets.

Read more here.

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