Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hope

The election of our new President gives me great hopes for possibilities ahead. And yet my happiness is tainted with sadness about two other events that happened today.

The first is that it seems proposition 8 has been voted through in California, which means they are actually going to amend the constitution to prevent gays from marrying each other. It makes me wonder why when one door opens, another one closes. It's supposed to be the other way around, but in this situation, we as a country have made great strides in the equality of all people by electing a black president, and yet there are still people who are willing to remove rights from gay people. Why is it acceptable for people to discriminate against anyone? My only hope is that with this step forward in electing Barack Obama, we will continue to move forward in the equality of rights of all people.

The other thing that happened today that is deeply distressing is that Opera Pacific, where I was just performing Barber of Seville, has announced that they are canceling their season, and barring a miracle, possibly shutting their doors for good. You can find the articles in the L.A. Times here and the O.C. Register here. Opera Pacific is suffering badly because of the state of the economy, and has been struggling for many seasons, and they have now laid off all but two staff members, and put their facilities in Santa Ana up for sale to pay their debts. It is terribly frightening to see a company as prestigious as Opera Pacific shut it's doors, and it makes all of us artists worried for our future and for the future of the art form. The saddest part to me is that the cultural institutions in this country are forced to rely on donors to keep their doors open instead of being partially funded by the government as an important part of our society the way they are in Europe. Art should be like air - necessary and vital. Not expendable when we have a problem with cash flow. I can only hope that the next 8 years will be better for everyone, and that our cultural institutions will be able to bounce back.

1 comment:

Don B. said...

I've decided that we are simply seeing the inevitable "shake out" following what was a "boom period" in the mid-eighties. Art won't die, but it's "delivery mechanism" (to use an "icky business term") will certainly change, and I do share your concern for the prospects for employment, especially for young artists.

Europe's model of cultural support will never be successful here, because the United States can't seem to figure out how to NOT bureaucratize something to death. Most US government arts agencies (from the NEA all then way down to local county funding committees) operate quite badly, and even if they were given the resources to come CLOSE to meeting demand for support, they'd still figure out a way to screw it up.

In fact, the "boom" is part of the problem: there are many more arts groups, per capita, in the US than in Europe, and they're all hungry.

For example, we have a small "mom and pop" opera group here in Cleveland that (IMHO) has NO business existing, because it's largely a "vanity company" for the conductor and his wife, who is cast in all of the major roles - and their productions are usually "shoestring" and quite mediocre. Yet they push on largely due to the sheer force of will of the principals, not by virtue of their quality.

This kind of thing dilutes the support - both public and private - that is available for arts support in any given community. And of course, the discussion turns to, "Well, who deserves to exist...?" It's too simple (and problematic) to say they are ALL deserving.

(Geez...it's too bad I don't have an opinion about any of this...) :-)