Anthony Tommasini’s “Occupy the Arts, a Seat at a Time” in Sunday’s New York Times, has started heated discussions in some quarters about the issue of social equality as it relates to the arts. That article cited the many concerts in New York City and elsewhere in the U.S. that are offered either free or at very low cost, adding, “Classical music has struggled for a long time to fight the perception — an unfair perception — that it is elitist and inaccessible… As we try to grasp what the committed Occupy Wall Street activists are saying to the performing arts, can we all agree to put aside at last the charge of elitism?”
Diane Ragsdale, in her January 2 blog at ArtsJournal, takes a different tack on the issue. “What arouses allegations that fine arts organizations are elitist is not (primarily) that their ticket prices are sometimes high, but rather that they are (more often than not) governed by a select group of (generally wealthy, well-educated, and often white) people whose beliefs and tastes are presumed to be ‘the best’ and therefore, good for society as a whole” In her blog post, Ragsdale cites a recent conversation she had with Russell Willis Taylor of National Arts Strategies, about census statistics indicating that 1 in 2 people in the U.S. are living at the poverty level. “Attending a fine arts event in the U.S. one steps into a world that seems to be (and often is) completely out of touch with the reality of that census statistic.” [italics by Ragsdale]
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