Our arts-and-design-saturated lives
From the unbelievably creative hardware and software many of us unthinkingly rely upon every day… to the ways we entertain ourselves through games, television and movies… to our socio-cultural practices of dining (not just eating) and attending music, theatre and dance events… to our enjoyment of designed outdoor and indoor spaces (neighborhoods, gardens, parks, commercial centers of activity such as the 16th Street Mall): we consume products of the creative and entertainment industries.
All around us– in the objects we love and use, and in the ways we interact and keep ourselves enlightened, amused, distracted and connected– are manifestations of the generative, imaginative, profoundly inspired, skilled work of the creative class. To imagine urban landscapes, households, clothing, business, health and public spaces devoid of design (for example) is to imagine a Calcutta slum, or the soulless, featureless suburban sprawl that characterizes, notably, cities in Southern California and New Jersey, but which can also be abundantly seen around our own city… or a brutalist, functionalist world in which all that is valued is what minimally sustains labor (not “people,” mind you– but workers; labor; employees) and produces wealth for an elite.
Here’s some information, for those who do not normally think of “arts” and “jobs” together. The concept “Creative Industry” may include (depending upon who is doing the defining): visual, performing and musical arts and their integrated, emergent forms; new and converging media and their myriad related skilled artists and workers, practices– such as marketing, public relations–and businesses).
“Entertainment Industry” commonly includes radio, television, film and their myriad related skilled artists and workers, practices and businesses. If you momentarily think “Las Vegas and Disney” you begin to scratch the surface of additional ways in which “Entertainment” appears in the world and produces and sustains economies.
People who end up working in (and advancing) these industries are critical thinkers who have also been encouraged to develop their creative and entrepreneurial skills in programs and institutions that understand and highly value intellectual rigor, imagination, creativity, generative thinking… and which appreciate the processes, spaces, technologies and material resources required to nurture these qualities and (collaborative and individual) behaviors. Moreover,
“Nationally, there are 904,581 businesses in the U.S. involved in the creation or distribution of the arts. They employ 3.34 million people, representing 4.25 percent of all businesses and 2.15 percent of all employees, respectively. These data are current as of January 2012.” (www.americansforthearts.org)
Americans for the Arts is a venerable organization, 50 years old, with an incredible track record of research and advocacy. Their mission is “…to serve, advance, and lead the network of organizations and individuals who cultivate, promote, sustain, and support the arts in America. Connecting your best ideas and leaders from the arts, communities, and business, together we can work to ensure that every American has access to the transformative power of the arts.”
Detailed reports on the economy and jobs; on public, community and individual health and well-being, and on the necessity of robust arts-in-education and lifelong participation are available on the AFA website. Research data here are capsulized into talking points, provided by the organization. Among their findings:
“With 3.3 million people working for arts businesses—arts education is a critical tool in fueling the creative industries with arts-trained workers as well as new arts consumers. Alan Greenspan, former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman, notes, “The arts develop skills and habits of mind that are important for workers in the new economy of ideas.””
“The creative industries play a major role in building and sustaining economically vibrant communities. Arts organizations provide jobs and generate government revenue and are the cornerstone of tourism and downtown revitalization.”
“Arts goods are an important international export industry for the U.S.—estimated at $64 billion in 2010.”
At their peril, decision-makers in higher education may assume they understand “arts” (with only a faint grasp of where the arts, society, health and the economy importantly intersect–and a vaguely contemptuous attitude that secretly considers the arts to be quaint pastimes, not crucial, human activities that produce knowledge) choosing to form attitudes based on impressions. Leaders sometimes give lip-service to the arts’ “important role” without grasping how visual art, theatre, music, movement, design, media and converging communication technologies make traditional views of arts (and of the relationship of arts education to the economy) obsolete.
Other benefits of taking arts seriously in higher education? Well…what I’m not writing about here (I’ve done that elsewhere)– is that there’s a great deal of evidence showing that participation in writing, creating new work in theatre, movement and music, performing (from Shakespeare to jazz), engaging in visual arts practices, videography and editing, and so on, can be of tangible benefit to children, disabled persons, veterans, incarcerated criminal offenders, the elderly… and, the list goes on. When coupled with deliberate facilitation and frameworks for critical thinking and dialogue, benefits increase. We make better, more resilient, more enriched and inspired people if we teach integrated artistic practices in ways that genuinely value those practices and products.
As a final note: where institutions wish to engage the public, lively, relevant arts facilities and events promote community, help establish place and memory, provide stimulating gathering sites and opportunities.
Visit the Americans for the Arts website and you will begin to grasp what’s so important about taking the arts and creative industries seriously.
How is Regis preparing students for a serious career in the integrative, collaborative arts, the creative and entertainment industries? Your thoughts?
http://www.americansforthearts.org/about-americans-for-the-arts. Accessed 2/6/2014.