When the arts are raised in the context of the recession, the discussion usually hits two extremes -- "saving" them, or slashing their funding -- neither of which is as compelling to explore as the arts themselves. If art, as Tom Stoppard once said, "provides the moral matrix from which we draw our values," it also provides other, more tangible matrices -- the creative and technological -- that determine how we live our lives.
With this in mind, we're launching an occasional HuffPost Culture series, "The Recessionary Arts," which over the next two months will explore how the recession is reshaping our nation's cultural state, and what this means for artists, consumers and the future of the arts. The instruments we play, the novels we read and the images we fetishize are just a few parts that are shifting amidst new economic realities.
We'll explore trends that have emerged during this time -- for one, our culture's renewed obsession with the past. Film remakes and theater revivals abound, as more mainstream forms of entertainment rely on the "safe bet." In a culture afraid to take risks, recreating something that is already audience-approved is less of a gamble than spending millions on an untested idea.
This is not to say we're only churning out recycled material. The counterpoint is what's bubbling underneath -- a push for innovation, nudged along by the technological advances that have coincided with the recession.
Realizing that old ways of business alone aren't going to cut it, arts institutions are looking to adapt across all sectors -- from TV shows taking to the web to operas running in movie theaters. Will our future cultural pastimes take place not in theaters or opera houses, but on couches, in front of our computer screens?
There's also the simple fact that there are more artists than ever in today's workforce. Funding doesn't come easy, and artists have more of an incentive to prove their ideas are worth the investment, taking risks they might not have if the stakes were lower. In our first piece in this series, culture reporter Lucas Kavner shares some compelling stories of artists who are acting anew in a tough economy.
The goal here isn't to decide whether the arts should be "saved" or if they're even worth our time -- they should be, and they are. With "The Recessionary Arts," we hope to encourage readers to become involved in the conversation of where we are, and what our new social matrices will look like.
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