Art Survives in Spite of It All

By Fields, Suzanne | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 16, 1997 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Art Survives in Spite of It All

Fields, Suzanne, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)

As Jane Alexander bids fond farewell to the National Endowment for the Arts, she leaves her swan song in a thick report blaming the poor state of the arts on just about everybody.

The chairman's report called "American Canvas," is refreshing because it doesn't simply reprise the liberal lament that conservative politicians are to blame. Nor does it attribute failure to the cutback of government money at federal, state and local levels. She blames the private patrician patrons who support art and those administrators who run the "non-profit" art institutions, who set themselves up as arbiters of taste and "neglected those aspects of participation, democratization and popularization that might have helped sustain the arts when the political climate turned." She blames the commercialization of culture, too.

While there's some unavoidable truth in these perceptions, a larger question remains: What kind of art can we expect from the fragmented world of post-modern democracy?

Certainly not government-sponsored art. We learned that the hard way. All art reflects and is dependent on the central cultural perceptions of the community. Participation in art can be coaxed, but never force-fed. That's a lesson the "nonprofit" art institutions failed to learn as they offered a narrow bias toward art running the gamut from art-as-political to art-as-elitist.

The vitality of Elizabethan drama, which gave birth to Shakespeare, appealed to the common truths and common sense of a cohesive community. Audiences were made up of all levels of society, from the most vulgar bawds to the royal and rarified elite. The unity found even in the stratification of classes could be tapped by talented artists and the participating audiences of the time.

The realm of everyday experience may be extraordinarily different for different social and economic classes, but in art the underlying verities remain the same. The intellectual and emotional depth of art requires a breadth of appreciation.

We don't have such breadth today in any of our arts. Or, rarely such depth, either. In fact, the call for aesthetic variety in multiculturalism undercuts the genius of the artist, who does what he does because he must, not because he serves or reflects a group sensibility.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Art Survives in Spite of It All


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?