Why Traditional Arts Are Being Ignored During Covi

I’m a financial supporter of various art forms.  I love the theatre, cinema, live music, art exhibitions, drawing.  So I’ve been surprised that, during this chaotic covi period, what we have heard from traditional Arts organisations and people  is pleas for financial assistance.  Arts are very vulnerable and deserve support, because they nurture and challenge society.   They appear not to have received their ‘fair’ share of support.  Here’s why.

Covi has been a Period of Self-Help

Quite a few of the community and business organisations I’ve been connected with have found ingenious ways to help themselves, through changing what they offer (from in-service restaurants to takeaways), changing the way they deliver their products or services (from retail stores to online) or going out of their way to deliver their service (custom home delivery, cold calling customers, personalising services).  Most arts organisations and people seem not to have done/been able to do this (I’ll come to the exceptions at the end!)

Covi has been a Period of Innovation

Related to self-help, this has been a period of great innovation across society (eg telemedicine, working from home, online education, Zoom meetings ).  Organisations have revised their offerings to continue to be relevant.  Zooms have enabled small groups to continue to meet virtually (eg U3A, all levels of education).  My bridge club – and the whole Australian Bridge Federation – has constructed real-time, competitive, online duplicate bridge much cheaper than face to face sessions.  My choir has conducted Zoom tutorials for small groups and offers Youtube recordings at the regular meeting time, as if we were continuing as normal.  My environment group conducts monthly Zoom meetings and uses unofficial distancing working bees to get work done anyway.

By contrast, I’ve suggested a number of innovations to a major arts organisation that I support and an arts society that I belong to.  All ideas have been rejected as infeasible.

‘Arts’  and ‘Culture’ are Highly Valuable to Society, but they must Demonstrate their Value

Through self-help and innovation, some small (and large) Arts organisations and people  have found ways to survive or even to flourish.  For instance, Youtube videos of yoga and pilates by individuals working from their home have managed to garner millions – yes millions – of viewers in a crowded market.  Streaming series and  movies online offer wonderful cinema alternatives.  People are crying out for art, yet many arts organisations and people (theatres, entertainment venues, cinemas, galleries and groups) have essentially closed down!

Some ‘Arts’ Organisations have Innovated and Provided Value

I’ve managed to do the following during the covi period:

  • Watch National Theatre Live from the UK, with a new play (a video of a past performance) weekly!  .  I can watch for free, but I am prepared to pay for them, to support these initiatives.  Why haven’t our theatres videoed their performances?  Why don’t they do a play and video it?
  • Watched Griffin Theatre (Sydney) do a live playreading of Orphans, with Alec Baldwin. The three actors were in different locations, different countries even, but the script was interesting enough to engage and the concept of watching a great like Baldwin was attractive.  Why don’t theatres read their in-progress plays to subscribers?
  • Watch compilations of Australian Comedy online. Some of these are past performances, some current, but they are providing good material that I’m prepared to pay for to support them.  Why don’t other artists similarly pool resources and video performances?
  • Viewed the local regional art gallery’s current exhibition online. While this was less fulfilling, at least it was an attempt and I would look at any other exhibitions or artist interviews, just to support them, knowing they would improve over time.
  • Some life models have offered arrangements to facilitate online drawing. On the other hand, my Artist Society has been unable to offer anything directly to its members – no video classes, no tutorials, no recommendations.
  • Watched lots of streaming series. This is really a live theatre/movie substitute and it’s cheaper and easier.

Arts, Get Your Act Together!

These examples are random, personal.  What they demonstrate is:

  • Given energy, innovation, resourcefulness, almost any organisation CAN produce desirable services during the covi period.
  • Some organisations and people do, some don’t.
  • Don’t complain how difficult life is. There ARE ways to succeed.  There ARE ways to fail.

With the availability of online arts (TV, online streaming, Youtube), unless ‘live’ or face-to-face arts experiences (live music, theatre, exhibitions, classes etc) can adapt and incorporate these alternative delivery channels during this period, they may well DIE.  Customers and consumers will have found alternatives.

Yes, ‘arts’ are incredibly valuable to society.  But ‘traditional’ arts don’t deserve to survive unless they can innovate and manage in the ‘new normal’.  Old arts can die.  New arts can be born.




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