An American Paradox (found here)
A Country That Loves Art, Not Artists
In a survey of attitudes toward artists in the U.S. a vast majority of Americans, 96%, said they were greatly inspired by various kinds of art and highly value art in their lives and communities. But the data suggests a strange paradox.
While Americans value art, the end product, they do not value what artists do. Only 27% of respondents believe that artists contribute “a lot” to the good of society.
Further interview data from the study reflects a strong sentiment in the cultural community that society does not value art making as legitimate work worthy of compensation. Many perceive the making of art as a frivolous or recreational pursuit.
USA hopes to help close the gap between the love of art and the ambivalence toward artists in society.
Other insights further illuminate the depth of the paradox:
• A majority of parents think that teaching the arts is as important as reading, math, science, history, and geography.
• 95% believe that the arts are important in preparing children for the future.
• In the face of a changing global economy, economists increasingly emphasize that the United States will have to rely on innovation, ingenuity, creativity, and analysis for its competitive edge—the very skills that can be enhanced by engagement with the arts.
As author Daniel Pink posits in his book A Whole New Mind—Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future, we have moved beyond the Information Age and into the Conceptual Age. “In short, we’ve progressed from a society of farmers to a society of knowledge workers. And now to a society of creators and empathizers, of pattern recognizers and meaning makers. . . . We’ve moved from an economy based on people’s backs to an economy built on people’s left brains to what is emerging today: an economy and society built more and more on people’s right brains. . . . aptitudes so often disdained and dismissed—artistry, empathy, taking the long view, pursuing the transcendent—will increasingly determine who soars and who stumbles. It’s a dizzying—but ultimately inspiring—change.”
Statistics referenced above provided by Urban Institute, Investing in Creativity: A Study of the Support Structure for U.S. Artists (2003), and Rand Research in the Arts, Gifts of the Muse: Reframing the Debate about the Benefits of the Arts (2004)
To many people artists seem /
undisciplined and lawless. /
Such laziness, with such great gifts, /
seems little short of crime. /
One mystery is how they make /
the things they make so flawless; /
another, what they’re doing with /
their energy and time.
-Piet Hein, poet and scientist (1905-1996)