I believe that, far from being luxury items, arts and culture are a necessity in our lives, as individuals and as nations. Culture is the strongest ambassador of the human condition we exchange around the world. Countries may go to war but it is culture that unites us. The arts inspire, uplift, challenge, stimulate our conversations, drive our debates and remain in our memories. --Kevin Spacey
Kevin Spacey, the Academy Award winning actor and artistic director of the Old Vic in London, wrote the above in an article for the London Times, defending the need for arts and art funding as it is sadly being slashed during this current economic collapse--created I might add by the common new goal of greed rather than the desire for reaching higher with Art. If greed is what has brought this on (and I for one am certain to my core that is the truth) then in fact Art can rescue us from it. Art at it's best teaches and demands higher thought of it's audience. Without the vocabulary, people cannot think the thoughts. Art provides this vocabulary. Thought in an uplifted and world-uniting form can heal the world, rather than continue to rape it.
Art for art's sake: When someone is born an artist & has the inborn need and drive to create, it is the foundation of who they are. It really matters not to a certain degree who their audience is or if they in fact have an audience. Certainly there are the performing arts and if you are a soul born to perform, not having an audience certainly removes that quality from your artistic endeavors--but does not remove from you whatever you perform--such as music.
The defining difference between the artist who creates for self exclusively without need for audience and presentation and the one who spends a good portion of their time in self-promotion or actual theft of their own time is in fact: money. Money is also the reason some artists don't create. A soul in a work-a-day world can collapse and die despite the need and drive. It is a lie to assume art will prevail. It is a lie to assume that if someone is a true artiste they will find a way to create. Survival requires sacrifices and what does not produce food and shelter gets moved lower and lower down the chain.... and finally, dead inside, the artist fails to exist at all.
The artist who has the freedom of money also has the freedom to create without the need of an audience. The work can solely be for their own self in all ways. It is up to them if they share the work or tuck it away relishing in simply the process. A writer, for instance, may create reams of paper filled with words or a massive blog site-- and if they do not have the financial need for payment, this might be enough.
However, if the artist works in a job that forces them to choose between their art and the rest of their life (family, sleep) being a working artist is the only way for them to survive. They need to be a professional. Few people have the luxury to live like my friend Joel, who as a major actor in a small arena finds a way to make it work, living simply to keep doing that which allows him to live his true self. If an author doesn't publish, a dancer isn't in production, an actor isn't filmed, a musician doesn't record, the art becomes a hobby. Hobbies can be sacrificed on the chopping block. Dreams die.
Mr. Spacey went on to say, "Our cultural life contributes to the financial health of communities across the nation. Cultural centres create jobs and generate income for the hotels, restaurants and countless other businesses in the areas where they operate. I, for one, do not want to see another regeneration plan that does not have arts and culture at its heart. Without them we are not building rounded communities, but ignoring the fabric and soul of society."
The soul of society cannot be the plastic wealth of disposable shopping mall accumulation. Civilization must mean more than who has the most square footage or consumes the most triple cheesy mac taco burgers, with bacon. My Super Sweet 16 cannot be an example of our highest aspirations.
But perhaps more importantly, Art as simply Art can save lives. I am not speaking of simply the quality of lives, or even through art funding, helping a young artist escape a dismal situation in the hood. I am speaking literally.
Not simply the creation of art, but the existence of art can keep the desperate alive. Suicide. After a suicide, there is the reflection of the family and friends--why wasn't my love enough to keep this person alive? Quite simply because the suicidal feels their loved ones are better off without them. However, art offers hope. Art gives meaning to pointless lives. It is not uncommon for a life to be saved by clinging to a specific art form or artist--if I kill myself, I will never know what Green Day does next.
I can kill myself whenever I want, but not until I have seen every single episode of Kids in the Hall.
I have known more than one or two people who've been kept alive for reasons very close to these. After awhile of art dependence, other meaning is found and life continues--or other meaning is not found, but the artist continues to produce and the suicidal are kept cleaving to the desire to roll around in the result.
Perhaps these of us are the most alive of all. Perhaps the realization that beauty and creation is a necessity and not a luxury make the human all the more humane and all the more in touch with what it means to be, human.
How can a price be put on the head of something this powerful?
"Ain't that close to love? Ain't that poster love? It ain't that Barbie Doll. Her heart's been broken just like you."--David Bowie
Without art, we as a culture are poorer. We lack our humanity. Our souls are less than. We are plastic. Disposable. An artist unable to create is stripped of self. We as a people must continue to rise up and recognize the value of art and the artist. In this time of economic crisis it is perhaps more important than it ever was to find our selves, to search our souls, to live lives of self-examination. To be flesh and blood. To be human and humane.
The answer to our desperation will not be found in the rolls of economists or the ledgers of corporations. We will find it where we've always found it--by looking inward. Art provides us the path to start our journey.
Quotes from this article used by permission via Mr. Spacey's tweet:
I also wrote an opinion piece in todays London Times: http://tinyurl.com/r2jebn Those who care about arts funding should pass along. Thxs