I remember as George W. Bush was leaving office and Obama was moving in what a wonderful sense of hope developed. Of course it was one of the slogans he ran on, but shared, I would posit, by the majority of the country was an undercurrent of change, as the mess of a status quo had the chance to at least stop growing. Clearly, in the past few years this has dwindled, as the scope of the mess has become more apparent. Lately however, there has again been something in the zeitgeist, as we head into an election year framed by the Occupy Movement, leaving Iraq, etc.
Now, the “look at social media, look at how fast things change these days” point is very familiar at this juncture, but I don’t think it’s significance can be overstated. I think when you look at what is happening in social, political, and economic arenas in the US and around the world it is not misguided to say that we are square in the middle of a crossroads, from which the path forward will be decided incrementally. I think there is great potential for the arts to gain influence and awareness as the world re-adjusts itself. Sometimes I feel like there is almost a desire within the arts to be a closed system, maybe because as people we tend to have such a difficult time coexisting with folks who aren’t artistically inclined. The ways in which the world around us is changing though, is offering new opportunities for culture to find a more prominent place.
This article from HowlRound, Turning Our Eyes Forward, is a great example of artists experimenting to see what kind of new place culture can occupy in the communities of the 21st century. What I love is that there project is born from assessing what it is that theatre has that it can offer a 21st century way of life, and how it can change to make that significance clearer to an audience outside of the typical fare for theatre in this country. I love this quotation, “To survive, theater must rise to this challenge and think of itself not as a venue but as an incredibly rich resource with unique skill in cultivating collaboration, facilitating exchange, and creating dynamic new places in a constantly changing world” (Cullinan). Theatre has so much to offer that it is not made apparent. I think their notion that it is not that the general public does not value culture but that the way we interact with it needs to be updated is dead on. This strikes a fairly similar theme as my last post on The Prospero Project, but as I inevitably look to the future day in and day out I think I am hoping that the changes the world is hinting at are realized and we move into a new enlightenment. Within the arts especially we need to dream ambitiously that it can be true.