art & civilization

..this quote from the guardian article “Civilisations are judged and remembered not by their most successful businessmen but by the art they leave behind.” yeah, sounds real nice if you can get over the fact it’s simplistic romanticized pap. perhaps in the sense of pre-history there is some truth in this. it’s hard to tell a businessman from a quarter inch piece of bleached knee bone. pottery and cave paintings are self evident. but once history began to be recorded i’d have to contend the exact opposite is the case.

This was written by the author of the nonist (a new-to-me blog) some time ago in a very thought-provoking rant concerning that ever perennial question, “what good are the arts?” Do read the whole post for he does make some sense while maybe needling the reader. However I really disagree with the above quote.

I think of the Renaissance period as a major example of where business and the arts collaborated to create some of mankind’s greatest art works. The wealthy businessmen and the wealthy churches were the patrons who supported and encouraged artists to create masterpieces for their homes, towns and churches. I guess what we need today are more patrons like the Medici family!

As for whether arts matters to society, I think of the many cities in the world that have great museums, opera houses, concert halls and theatres. Business and tourism thrives in these places, and the money that is made here is then spent enjoying the arts. Can you imagine Paris, Rome, London or New York without the arts?

I agree that many people are not interested in the arts at all, sadly, and I blame their deficient education. This brings to my mind the recent blog Finland Diary by Robert G. Kaiser and Lucian Perkins of the Washington Post who toured Finland to find out why it has the world’s best educational system, produces such talented musicians and architects, and is an economic success. (I blogged about it when it had just started.)

That’s enough of my mini-rant. Dear readers, are the arts important to a great civilization?

Addendum Aug.6.05: Here’s some interesting facts from the Alliance for Arts and Culture:

I think that the manifestation of our culture in terms of our identity is absolutely crucial.
-Prime Minister Paul Martin, on the subject of the Canadian Televison Fund, April29/03

Dollar amount that the arts contribute to Canada’s economy each year: $26 billion
Number of people who attend a live perfomance each year in Canada: 14 million (double the number who attend sporting events)

August 3, 2005 in Being an Artist, Culture by Marja-Leena