Magazine article Dance Magazine

Audiences

Magazine article Dance Magazine

Audiences

Article excerpt

It is no surprise to learn from new Federal studies that audiences on the average are getting older, and not necessarily wiser. As baby boomers (the 80 million Americans born between 1946 and 1965) age, they do not attend live performances as frequently as their parents did, and they contribute less money to the traditional performing arts. This indicates a decline in the once-sacred idea of civic stewardship. Education, available time, cultural values, and ticket prices are part of the reason, although dance--appealing to a younger, more active audience--appears not to be caught up in these trends to the same extent as theater, opera, or symphony orchestras. But everybody who is serious about the future of the arts knows we're together in this struggle to regain lost ground.

The role of the arts in our public schools is more important than ever: Where else will future audiences and performers come from? We have known for a long time that a large majority (92%) of people polled believe that the arts are an integral aspect of the learning process. However, those who could facilitate action, our politicians, often take obstructionist roles--for which they should be held accountable.

What can we do? That is the question people at New York's City Center asked when they sponsored a "Dance Education Forum" this winter in conjunction with the New York City public school system. It was refreshing for me to discover that so much is, in fact, being done to restore art education to the city's schools and that private funding plays such an active role. For example, among the private sponsors of City Center's Young People's Dance Series, which provides dance awareness to junior high school students, are Citibank, NYNEX, Pfizer, and the Travelers Foundation, as well as the National Endowment for the Arts.

At the January forum, the city's Commissioner of Cultural Affairs, Schuyler Chapin, told an astonishing story about his boss, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, whose shortsighted solution to saving city money is to cut education expenditures down to raw bone. During a discouraging conversation about finding funds for education, Chapin was astonished to hear the mayor wonder aloud, "How did it happen that art was dropped from the New York school system in the first place?" This cut took place more than twenty years ago at the time of the city's most severe fiscal crisis.

Nobody really answered the mayor's question, but advisors speculated that part of the problem might be requiring seasoned professionals in the arts to take unnecessary university courses in teaching methodologies. To Chapin's surprise, Giuliani was sympathetic to teaching arts in city schools again, and he encouraged Chapin to pursue private, non-city sources of support. …

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