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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: tenth anniversary issue

[Unfulfilled opportunities in the arts: a symposium],   pp. [7]-24 PDF (17.0 MB)

Page 12

12      doubt, in opposition, in movement away
from accepted centers of all kinds, not in
affirmation of the status quo of any kind.
Some of them have made money, many of
them have not, and almost all of them
could have used help along the way.
All the programmatic stuff - at Stage Two
- should be designed to give help and
then go away. Certain useful programs
have been initiated, by the National
Foundation for the Arts, the American Film
Institute, and other groups and foundations.
The surface has barely been scratched,
as the best of these people know. But
the best of these people also know that
they are not filling unfulfilled opportunities
in the arts by sending out mobile
libraries, traveling art exhibits, or good
films to communities with no "art"
theatres. All of this and more is (or can be)
wonderful educational activity, possibly
conducive to raising taste, increasing a
genuine audience, and even sparking
incipient artists. But that is all that arts
councilors and art educators can do in this
way. If they have sufficient funds, they
can also give unentangled subsidy to
artists. They must not flatter
themselves that, in any root sense, they can
do anything at first hand about those
unfulfilled artistic opportunities in the
symposium title.
I am quarreling quite seriously with that
title as the product of several decades of
fuzzy, melioristic, analagous thinking.
Opportunities in the arts can be fulfilled
only by artists. They can be seen only by
artists. Anyway, only those opportunities
that are seen by artists are going to be
fulfilled. The rest of us can operate
at Stage Two, facilitating their work and
educating their audience.
Statement by Louis Kampf, author of
"On Modernism: the Prospects for
Literature and Freedom."
There are no "Unfulfilled Opportunities in
the Arts in America." A country gets the
arts it deserves. And we have what we
deserve. Surely the current chaos in our
arts, the cannibalistic competition for fame,
for institutional recognition and for the
dollar, the unabashed cynicism leading to
destructiveness - surely all these best
embody our national aspirations. Given the
bureaucratic impulse of industrial
capitalism, our most visible artistic efforts
tend to take the form either of heroic
individual (and therefore erratic) endeavors
or of abject institutional productions.
To begin with the latter. Institutional
America is rich. Government bureaus,
foundations, corporations, the universities
are handing out billions every year. Not
unreasonably, many had assumed that these
instruments of a benevolent capitalism
would become the Medici of our time; their
generous patronage would create a modern
Renaissance worthy of our national power.
Such assumptions not only reveal a
childish naivete about the cultural
objectives of our major institutions, they
also reveal a failure of historical

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