Friday, July 2, 2010

Art is Dead

Dystopic novels are all the rage now. From Hunger Games and The Passage to Matched, more and more books featuring pent-up, artless, soulless societies are being churned out. Why? Perhaps I’m being presumptuous, but I think it’s because authors are recognizing this turn in our own ever-changing society and readers being more sub-consciously perceptive than has been supposed are seeking relief from the politics of life or answers through fiction. All I know is that as we move further into the depths of this digital-visual age the concepts of these books seem to slink their way into our lives.

In reading these novels one main thread can be seen repeatedly. Whether it’s Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 from 1953, or the upcoming 2010 novel Matched by Ally Condie, there is one prevalent item that is banned, limited, or controlled with an iron grip, Art. Now, when I say I art, I don’t just mean Seurat, Caravaggio, and Da Vinci, I mean art, as it encompasses everything and anything that requires talent and imagination to produce; literature, music, film, theater, the things that years later define are particular generational culture. These authors have all predicted the abolishment of art and culture (for those of you who lack these, books fall into these categories, and yes I have had that conversation, which is why I’ve included this note). Now, we start to see how prophetic these imagineers are.

For years arts programs have bee cut from schools, much to the detriment to our students as many studies have now shown (California Arts Council). Arts programs have led to stronger reading and verbal skills, music and math intermingle repeatedly, and according to the Center for Arts Education, New York “research has also shown that arts education has had a measurable impact on at-risk youth in deterring delinquent behavior and truancy problems while also increasing overall academic performance” (Center for Arts Education.)In his book A Whole New Mind New York Times bestselling author and lecturer Daniel Pink recognized the influence of arts and goes further to state that people with strong arts backgrounds are the future in terms of business, financial, and personal success. As far as I’m concerned Arts are the backbone of our society.

So, why am I writing what seems to be an intro to a Masters Thesis? I’m writing out of frustration and disappointment. In this city we have one major newspaper, it’s not great, but outside of a series of community newspapers (some surprisingly good, some sadly horrific), it’s all we have. Over the past few years we have seen a once thorough review of arts and culture begin to dwindle, so that it is now only a few pages on Sundays. Now we have been informed of a complete reformatting of the Arts section, namely one where books have been ousted from the community of arts and culture. My dismay is great. Not just because books will be significantly absent from this coverage, but by the ignorance of the paper’s new Editor in Chief. A man who apparently does not recognize literature as either an art or as a part of our culture. Seeing as how the New York Times Book Review section on Sundays is a staple for many ardent and even not so ardent readers, it amazes me that another major metropolitan newspaper would diminish such a section. Also, at a time when book readership is growing thanks to the popularity of ebooks and ereaders (not a fan, but I understand the appeal), it would seem that now is the time to open the eyes of these newer readers to breakout fiction and non-fiction that they would not have heard of without the newspaper’s coverage (New York Times). I’m not the only one distressed by this, it appears as though the community in general is appalled and in order to better understand the newspaper’s decision a Arts and Culture Forum will be taking place at July 9 at Warwick’s, 7812 Girard Ave, La Jolla, Ca from 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm. Moderated by Author, Lecturer, Psychologist Richard Farson and featuring a panel of notable community members, including the new Editor of the San Diego Union Tribune, this should be a unique opportunity to understand how a major city boasting an array of amazing museums, concert venues, independent book stores, and award-winning theaters, could possibly delete these important cultural and tourist drawing (let’s face is we do survive on tourism in America’s Finest City) from our newspaper. Yes, printed news as we know it is changing, but it is not dying, it is evolving, calling for it’s producers to tap into local interests, non-profits, and businesses in order to maintain it’s readership.

So Art is dead. At least according to this city’s newspaper. Let us hope that the citizenship vehemently disagrees. And let us hope that our future is not the one imagined by Bradbury and his cohorts.

More more information on the forum please visit:

Works Cited

California Arts Council. Web. 02 July 2010.
The Center for Arts Education of New York | Arts Powered Learning. Web. 02 July 2010.
"E-Book Fans Keep Format in Spotlight." The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. 20 Oct. 2009. Web. 02 July 2010.
Pink, Daniel H. A Whole New Mind: Why Right-brainers Will Rule the Future. New York: Riverhead, 2006. Print.