Where is art going these days, anywhere? When the economy comes to a screeching halt, so do the arts, at least that what it feels like. Of course there are circles where despite the current economic situation they continue to flourish as do the arts and artists affiliated with those circles. I often wonder how aware people of the Great Depression were that they were in a depression. So I asked my grandfather that question before his passing this January during one of our many cultural conversations, conversations I will treasure and forever miss, and his response was that times had “always been harder then than they are now because of technology,” but they didn’t see it as a depression per se, just as life as normal.
But since our culture has experienced major prosperity over the past 50 years and have since then also experienced economic “recession” the current generation might be more aware of our current economic reality than if one had always seen life as hard and from that as normal.
What brings this to my attention is seeing the change in the arts within universities and colleges just over the past 15 or so years with an obvious growth spurt in the graphic arts due to advancements of the internet and its growing accessibility. While the economy of the 1930’s was tumultuous to say the least, according to my grandfather anyway with unemployment reaching as high as 30%, there were some recognizable leaps in the visual art world from well known artists such as Jackson Pollack, David Smith, and Mark Rothko just to name a few.
Even though the current unemployment rate isn’t near 30%, it is still a very tough economy. I should know as I have started three businesses over the past 5 years, 2 of which are still in operation. It’s not easy to start a business in an up economy, much less a down one. But looking back through art history, some of the most recognizable art has been made in down economies and I am left wondering what leaps in the visual arts might be made over the next 10 years….