The Other Art

Last night in my Art & Public Policy class, we talked a bit about how “the arts” are trying to cultivate larger audiences, gain more funding, and be more successful in general.

And I started wondering if it’s effective for the arts to lump themselves into that ubuiquitous category THE ARTS.

For example, there are performing arts and studio arts, particpatory arts and spectated arts, commercial arts and fine arts. Those encompass a wide field of play! In Arizona we have the Arizona Commission on the Arts, whose job it is to circulate funding, opportunities, and resources among all the arts. (And they do a great job, too!)

But I was thinking about whether or not it might be better for the arts to splinter off into more discrete subgroups. Say, for example, the opera, the symphony, and theatre shuffle off into a Performing Arts Coalition—are there concerns similar? Do they share a similar audience/need/philosophy? Would it be in their best interest to share audiences and funding rather than competing for spare change with the rest of the arts?

Similarly, I often find that in discussions of THE ARTS, literary arts are often conspicuously absent! People are more inclined to associate the Fine Arts (visual and performing) with THE ARTS, but writing is often viewed separately. This is perhaps because there is such a large commercial publishing industry at work in the world that people have slowly come to separate THE ARTS from what you can buy at your local Barnes & Noble (and perhaps rightly so…). But, too, even at ASU, the Creative Writing master’s program is in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, not in the College of Fine Arts, and I suspect this dichotomy exists at many institutions.

I’m not necessarily advocating for a splintering of arts disciplines; I’m just asking questions. Is it possible that our legislators and voters are rejecting arts funding because there is no line-item veto in funding the arts? Do people want to fund the opera and not literature, the art museum and not the symphony, the ballet but not arts coalitions?

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