The Playgoer: The Case for Art in Challenging Economic Times

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Case for Art in Challenging Economic Times

by Abigail Katz

We're all aware of the economic crisis our country is facing at this moment. People are scared, confused, and unsure of what the future holds or what to do. It's a huge dilemma for the theatre world, which was pointed out in a New York Times article a few days ago. So with the Dow plunging and people tightening their belts, how do we ask for support for the arts?

The first step is to ask what art means to people.  Whether it is in the form of theatre or visual arts or music or film, for some it is for entertainment and escape.  For others it is to satisfy an intellectual, emotional, or spiritual need. And still for others it is their life's work.  None of this ends when economic times are bad.  People still need diversion (perhaps even more right now), people still have needs that only art can answer, and people still need to work.   To take the question even further, imagine a world without art- dull, depressing, devoid of beauty created by artists, devoid of thought-provoking pieces created by artists that encourage dialogue and understanding.  And what about art in the schools?  It's no secret that studying various forms of art alongside the core subjects only enhances education and gives students additional capacity for comprehension and learning.  

I could go on and on arguing that art is not simply a luxury in our society, but essential.  I'm certainly not the first to make this argument, but in times like these we need people to keep making that statement, and of course the best way to that is to continue going to the theatre and museums and music performances and movies.  We can all spare a few lattes (I know I certainly can) in exchange for a theatre ticket.  For those who can do more, don't cancel your theatre membership, and if possible, give a little something extra to show what your theatre of choice means to you.  One of the rabbis of my synagogue said on Yom Kippur that it was hard for him to stand before the congregation during this crisis and ask for monetary pledges.  He recognized that many could not give as much as they gave before, and requested that for those who were thankfully in a better position to try and help make up the difference.  He asked us to stretch as much as we could.  I guess I'm asking the same thing- not to put yourself in jeopardy of course, but to really consider the role that art plays in your life and act accordingly.  We need art in times like these.

And just for you theatregoers, as Hillary would say, "KEEP GOING!" 

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