A friend of mine that dances with Texas Dance Theatre (and is fiercely dancing a solo made by yours truly TOMORROW! If you’re in Fort Worth, don’t miss TDT’s show!) sent me an e-mail responding to my last “crisis for artists” post. I thought she brought up a good point/comparison, so I’m posting it, with her permission.
If people have the option to see a movie or live art, and the movie is $10 vs a $20 concert, which will they see? [note, when we throw out these prices they are just examples that reflect a regional art-going experience. The more prestigious the venue the more expensive the ticket, however, my friend’s experience, and mine as well, has been that people are even hesitant to spend just $15) The vast majority of “normal” Americans, from my experience, will choose the movie because 1) financial cost and 2) familiarity with the way in which the entertainment/ideas/content is presented. which goes back to some of your earlier points. In fact, when I have invited non-dancers/artists to my dance concerts in the past, I have more than once encountered a conversation such as this:
friend:”Well how much is it?”
friend:” What!?!? I can see a movie or 2 for that!! Can’t you hook me up with free tickets?”
(I guess I should mention these were mostly “rough and tumble” guys in their 20s that responded in this way, but I still think there is some validity in the point, considering they are a large population of the non-art-going crowd).
Again, this could partially be ignorance and a lack of full appreciation for art. But I honestly think it is more a response to uncertain expectations toward art and apprehension to spend money on it.
When said individuals from the “movie conversation” actually buckle down and GO to the concert, almost 100% of the time they are pleasantly surprised by how much they enjoyed it, and express interest in going to future concerts (and in fact do go again). Again, I think this helps support the assumption that people just need to be aware (and honestly not afraid of) art (enter both your “content” and “community” arguments).
Now there are plenty of movies out there that I would consider equal to art, so I can’t complain that people don’t care about art because they’d rather see a movie… but there’s also plenty of movies, that I don’t think qualify as art.
I’m probably preaching to the choir mostly in terms of my readers, but I want to speak to those of you who can identify with our friends who would rather spend money on a movie or a meal than on a dance concert, musical, or theater production, etc. My guess is that you trust the entertainment value of a movie, but what if you had never seen a movie? Or what if the first movie you saw, you hated, so you decided you hated all films and vowed never to see one again. My guess is you’d balk at spending $9-12 (actually, those of us who prefer to spend $6 on movies, may balk at that price anyway) on a movie. You’re thinking “I’ve never seen one of these, don’t see why I should spend any money to sit in a dark room” or maybe you’re thinking “I hate movies, that last movie I saw was horrible, I never want to spend money on that again.”
See what I’m getting at? Give something you’ve never tried, like seeing a ballet, a chance. Or if you hated plays when you were a kid, try to see one again… maybe your tastes have changed. While entertaining is not art’s primary purpose (I believe), the entertainment/enjoyment/appreciation of such is a delightful byproduct of artistic expression. If you’re searching for entertainment, you have lots of options, and I hope catching some arts enthusiasm is one of them.