Opening Night

This is the Joffrey's second Nutcracker without our beloved Mr. Arpino.  He was the guide, architect, and chaperone of our Nutcracker, and when repetition set it, he was always our comfort, applauding us during every single performance.  Last night was our opening night here in Chicago and it was a great performance filled with high energy and a great deal of passion.  The company gave everything they had to this performance. It was a great way to start this three week run of shows.  
Even though we had a great run with Othello back in October, the company needs to do more in order to reach the year's financial goals.  We need to be able to set ourselves up for a successful year next year.  We want to be able to put on certain productions and so we constantly need to do well.  Basically we need more support!
I suppose this is an odd question, but I'm dying to know the answer....why is art not as well supported here in the US??!?!  Can anyone give me a real, valid answer???
I do not understand why such a powerful country, with every opportunity and every resource does not devote itself more, and offer more, to those communities that develop its artists.  It is honestly something I hope to devote myself to after my own performing career.  But why isn't it the case now?  The arts are so important for an infinite number of reasons, not least for the improvement of the human kind.  Dancing, live music, theater, art, ballet...it is all a spark for your mind.  It feeds your brain with information and challenges your own thoughts and emotions.  Simply put, its pure education for all ages.
Please, I'd love to hear your thoughts...

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  • You are so right about arts funding in the U.S. It helps that we now have Obama in office, but the National Endowment for the Arts is fractional compared to the government support that countries in the EU provide. In the meantime, the arts tend to get short shrift in most public schools -- arts programs are usually the first to get cut.

  • Fabrice:

    Regarding your question of lack of support for the arts in the U.S. (and I assume you specifically mean governmental support), it has more recently been a struggle to require government (esp Federal) agencies to fund the arts. Yes, there are programs in place (eg, the NEA) but these programs are subject to the financial whims of each administration and its politically leanings. Democrats tend to be more supportive and Republicans less. There are also now in place the concepts of political correctness and/or suppression of liberal artists to deal with via these organizations. I think the problem in America is that some arts (eg, ballet, opera, classical music) are viewed as elitist endeavors appealing to a limited number of audience members (aka, voters). You and I know that this is not true but I still think that many people feel this way - whether they have the power to give the money to arts organizations or the desire to attend the performance. Even theatres (ie, musicals) which have the broadest audience appeal struggle if they are not of an entertainment variety as opposed to a dramatic or thought provoking one.

    I also think that the european model of governmental support of the arts goes back to the monarchies which often created the arts for their own enjoyment. Centuries of creative support has filtered into the populace in Europe more so than in America.

    Finally, the current America arts role model is to have monetary success in the arts as a signifier of popular success. "If a ticket is that hard to get, the show must be worth seeing!" So unless you appeal to the widest demographic or to a smaller demographic that wants desperately to see your show, then you cannot be successful.

    In addition, it is the private sector, for better or worse, that almost always foots the bill in the arts in America. There are exceptions and I think we are rather lucky here in Chicago that there is a lot of city funded arts projects (though the current economic climate may cut that way back). As someone who volunteers in the tourist sector here, I am always pushing visitors to see a performance here during their visit.

    Finally, the continuing decline and/or lack of arts education in many American schools is perhaps our greatest disgrace. If you cannot enrich and educate your children into the world of art, music, theatre and dance, then how can you expect them to make it a part of their adult lives and subsequently their own children.

    How do we solve some of these inbuilt problems? Good question. I guess you could start by bringing a child to a performance, show them a movie at home, turn on the ballet if it is seen on TV. Introduce them via children's theatre to a whole new world. In fact, next time you walk past a theatre that has a crowd in front, tell your child that an amzing thing is about to happen or has just happened inside that place. If they ask "When can I see" then take them to see that performance or another one. Sometimes a single visit to a performance can trigger a lifetime of support.

    My favorite quote about the arts can be found inside the entrance to the Fine Arts Building on Michgan Ave. "All Passes. Art Alone Endures." I agree.

    John P

    ps Thanks for the opportunity to rant.

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