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dreamers and artists 
24th-Jan-2012 09:34 pm [arts]
accent shadow

so i just watched Obama's SoTU address, and i'm left with a high degree of mixed emotions about the whole thing. During his presidential campaign, there was a lot of emphasis placed on dealing with our economic crisis, strategies to create jobs, help industry find its footing again, &c.

all of that is fine and good because that was one of the key things on everyone's mind at the time. Not that that isn't still important as the national economy is still on the beginnings of the road to recovery, but through all of the topics that he tried to address - most of which i resonate with and support - the one thing that i felt was lacking is something that's very close to my heart.

which is that i'm an artist. a musician, a composer by degree and somewhat by trade (a music educator otherwise). Music is my passion and is something i always dreamt making my career out of, and despite the fact that in high school it seemed improbable and despite my parents' initial resistance, i was intent on following my dream and utilizing my talent to create art that tries to appeal to lots of different levels.

i had a lot of inspiration along the way. The right sort of teachers in the right places, the right sort of musical role models that resonated in the artist in me. I feel that despite the fact that even then when i thought that dreamers and artists like me were politely frowned upon, i still had enough people to support me and validate my passion so that i can be in a place i am now: a career in music that is at least moderately successful and something i'm generally happy with. And i make it my mission to try to instill the inspiration that was given to me to my students and to those who have exposure to my art and my passion.

But i live in a time where the arts and extracurriculars in our public schools continues to diminish, where it feels like talk of becoming a composer or a musician or a storyteller are flights of fancy that should eventually turn into real "grown up" responsibilities of finding a more stable job or one that has more practical value. And today watching a president who i respect and admire and has a lot of right ideas made one thing clear: i don't live in a current national climate where dreamers and artists like me are given significant priority or advocacy. And it's damned depressing.

So my question is: how do people feel about this across the pond? Is there strong advocacy for innovation and creativity in ways that doesn't always lead to straightforward tangible ends? Where do the dreamers and artists and musicians and fiction authors &c fit in society from a practical and perception standpoint?

25th-Jan-2012 04:07 am (UTC)
Honestly I think in times of economic crises it's always the arts that get hit over the head, that and disabled people, basically anyone or anything seen as superfluous to economic productivity.

I don't think it helps that the majority of those in power tend to come from non arts backgrounds either. I blame Thatcher, she may have invented Mr Whippy homogenated pseudo ice cream, but Ted Health was the last Prime Minister we had who could conduct an orchestra!
25th-Jan-2012 04:14 am (UTC)
Stupid autocorrect!
25th-Jan-2012 04:35 am (UTC)

thanks for the insight. :)
26th-Jan-2012 01:35 pm (UTC)
the majority of those in power tend to come from non arts backgrounds

I'm not sure what their backgrounds do count as - bloody useless 'political' subjects like Oxford's PPE etc? Actually Law and History are the hugely overrepresented backgrounds of MPs.

IIRC, Thatcher is the only PM we've ever had with a science degree, and scientists, medics, people of technical backgrounds etc are hugely underrepresented in the Commons, whereas arts types do better - but does depend on how you classify 'arts'.

Right now I agree that if you're not employing people, you're seen as useless (unless you're disabled and using DLA to employ a PA, in which case you're simply a scrounger...)
28th-Jan-2012 04:14 am (UTC)
I should probably fess up to my BSc now!
25th-Jan-2012 04:21 am (UTC)
not from across the pond, but: I'm a music educator working on my PhD. We were just talking about this in my curriculum design class on Monday. When the economy is good, the arts get a lot of money, and when it's in the tank, we don't. and then the cycle repeats. Case in point: before, during, and after the Depression.

One book I think is good to read and get talking points from is Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule The Future because it talks about how arts education directly translates into stable, profitable jobs that can't be easily outsourced. They aren't just flights of fancy. They CAN be, but don't have to be. They're actually very practical. Most people just don't realize it.
25th-Jan-2012 04:27 am (UTC)
i'll give it a gander. Thanks. :)
25th-Jan-2012 07:38 am (UTC)
In UK politics? Hardly. Innovation and creativity have to be measured by their projected economic impact to see whether they merit public investment. Universities are now businesses, attracting studentsconsumers who want the most value for money out of the college education that is now a requirement for employment, and so "irrelevant" things like arts and humanities (unless maybe "history of modern Britain") must be cast aside in this time of austerity.

Signed, bitter medievalist
25th-Jan-2012 09:04 am (UTC)
In any capitalist society, and during any recession the first things to be sidelined are 'luxuries' - like the arts. I trained as a theatre designer during the 70s - and just graduated at the start of that recession - with dark theatres and the (thankfully temporary) shutdown of the British film industry. I've never earned a penny doing the job I trained for.

It's happening here again now. The first casualty of the present Governments economies was funding for British film.

The perception seems to be that writers, artists and musicians are so dedicated to their art that they'll carry on without any encouragement or support from the rest of society.

Didn't you know? Starving in a garret is traditional.
25th-Jan-2012 10:02 am (UTC)
Creativity in Britain is sometimes helped by political factors: in the 1970s punk rock happened in a climate of strikes, shortages and power cuts. It was quite a nihilistic movement that reflected the attitude of the age as seen in the music of the Sex Pistols and The Clash.

In 1981 The Specials' classic 'Ghost Town' perfectly illustrated Britain under Margaret Thatcher and the mass unemployment and rioting that ensued after savage spending cuts.

In the mid-1990s Britpop came along and was more upbeat and happy because after years of Conservative Party rule it was clear that the Labour Party would soon be back in power and there would be a rush of optimism when that happened that was perfectly soundtracked by bands like Oasis and Blur.

So music and the arts are very important in reflecting the times I think.
25th-Jan-2012 11:58 am (UTC)
Despite the West End doing exceedingly well (take the transfer of War Horse to Broadway last year, as well as the new film for example), and output of the arts being something like 3x the input, it's always the first to get hacked. Who needs art in austerity? Theatre and galleries aren't worth as much as schools and hospitals. It's not like we're a country famous for our scriptwriters, novelists, architects and artists or anything.

I worked as a stage manager and theatre technician for around four years since university, and have only seen interest in the arts grow - but somehow, the attitude is still that anybody working in the arts is just deluding themselves and aren't working a 'real job'. There's still quite the classist, slightly reversed snobbery approach to the whole industry over here.
25th-Jan-2012 04:56 pm (UTC)
" Is there strong advocacy for innovation and creativity in ways that doesn't always lead to straightforward tangible ends?"

Yes, of course, but it doesn't always pay to advertise. Take the Cultural Olympiad (a wonderfully clanging misnomer), an intangibly confusing end if ever there was one. Quite where these children will climb back aboard the sane train remains a mystery, but they'll be dining out on the experience for several years to come. Good luck to 'em.
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