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When The Arts Feel The Pinch
Closed, after less than 18 months.
There seems to be little doubt about it - these are tough times for the arts. At the heart of it, these are tough times to sell art and get funding. It is tough to garner sufficient support to get large projects off the ground.
To give a few instances, the much anticipated California Art Walk at the Convention Center has just been canceled for lack of support. And the Orange County Symphony has just been obliged to postpone its Pops at the Arena spectacular for want of sufficient ticket sales. Sure, the tables at $50 a head were filling up nicely, but the stadium seating was at a crawl. And did you hear that the much vaunted Battle of the Dance venue, right there next to Disneyland, has closed its doors? You could even get a hint of the hard times at the last Art Crawl Experience when it seemed that the number of artists in the street had diminished in number.
Now it's true that new galleries have opened recently in downtown Anaheim. It is our earnest wish that they generate the revenue to survive.
All these closures and postponements (and there will be others) have slightly different root causes. And a major one is sheer indifference in the art-consuming public. I wonder if indifference is the right word? There is so much art available, in its many forms, that we cannot get excited about all of it. And we do not have huge amounts of disposable income to lavish on keeping the arts alive simply because we love them.
So the endless appeals for money, the fundraisers, end up hitting deaf ears because we have exhausted the ability to respond. I would love to slosh money around to support the arts, if only I had it to slosh around! I would love to go to more arts events, if only I had the time. I would love to say how much I care when an arts organization runs perilously close to closing, but it does not lie within my gift to stop it.
And then there is the not-so-switched-on-to-the-arts public. How do we persuade them that an evening at the Anaheim Ballet is a rich and profoundly moving experience of music, movement, grace, athleticism and sheer beauty? How do we get them to feel a great hole in their lives because they do not have a monthly diet of live orchestral music from the OC Symphony? And if the Anaheim Performing Arts Foundation ever gets to build its longed for performing arts center, will we actually go there?
We can see it all on the TV with huge screens and theatre quality sound. And we can TiVo the program if the time is inconvenient. We can buy fairly good looking art from the store without the need to traipse around the galleries. And before we realize it we have gutted our souls of the real experience of art, and don't even know it. We are unconcerned if the purveyors of art struggle. It's not our thing. In a busy life when Facebook and Twitter command more attention than our kids' homework there seems little prospect of any change on the horizon.
This is a gloomy picture. Arts organizations( which are making real headway have become as tough at marketing as making excellent art. (The Chance Theatre is a good example.) And they have put their heads down for a long march, gathering loyal supporters, slowly building their base by providing brilliant art to discerning people. They maximize all the technology available - the same Facebook and Twitter that we can so easily demean. They build support with children and their parents, badgering sponsors for money because, as we all know, how can you refuse money to help the kids? They dangle tempting schemes before you for sustaining memberships, huge prizes in opportunity drawings. Essentially, they invest smartly by spending money to make more money.
Getting it right.
Art, frankly, needs to be married to sound business. And thereby hangs another tale.
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