"I want to know more about the political economy of art at the present moment, to think about how artists are affected by changes in the distribution of wealth and the definition of work, and about how their work addresses these changes."
-A.O. Scott, New York Times
Scott's collection of answers from these various cultural figures springs from his essay on the same subject, in which he expresses his belief that "we are in the midst of hard times now, and it feels as if art is failing us." He goes on to say "Ever since the financial crisis of 2008, I’ve been waiting for “The Grapes of Wrath.” Or maybe “A Raisin in the Sun,” or “Death of a Salesman,” a Zola novel or a Woody Guthrie ballad — something that would sum up the injustices and worries of the times, and put a human face on the impersonal movements of history."
While the article has so many great thoughts from prominent cultural figures, I find that I respectfully disagree with Scott. Don't misunderstand me, I find many things about art frustrating. I find the lack of financial security discouraging and the hours exhausting. I find the lack of support for arts in education disheartening and funding for arts pretty grim. But I also find that art remains the best way I know to express myself and my views about the world.
I am honored to know so many incredible artistic friends all over the country that are currently digging their heels in, in the midst of a rough economy, to try to write, perform, direct, teach, and create as best they can. I have seen and heard a wealth of artistic responses to the recession, Ferguson protests, continued gay marriage debates, immigration issues, and so much more. The artists I know are fighting using the tools they have. I am proud to know these determined people and find that even in the midst of these challenging times, there are so many artists willing to stand up for what they believe in. When I look at these human beings creating right in front of me, how can I say that art is failing?
These artists I know aren't necessarily the same ones having work produced on Broadway or displayed at the Met, but their work is just as meaningful. Instead of asking if art is failing us, perhaps the question we should be asking is if the current artistic climate in this country is failing the hard working artists themselves. I know so many of these incredibly stubborn and hardworking souls, and one of the biggest issues we face is finding a platform to share our pieces of art with a wider audience, where they can have the potential to affect social change. I have a sneaking suspicion that this powerful work that Mr. Scott longs for is indeed already out there, but we're just not being given an opportunity to hear or see it. That's a whole different issue.
What do you think? Do you see art as having failed to live up to its duty to address vital issues? Is it possible that the art being mass produced and widely distributed is failing to appropriately grapple with the issues we are now facing? Or do you see artists on a local level succeeding in taking on these issues?