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posted on 07.22.09

I have been thinking a lot lately about art and its effect on society, especially, in a time of economic downturn like the present.  Why is our first instinct always to cut and run when it comes to art and a bad economy?  Art and culture has time and time again shown that it has the power to change a society, so why abandon it when we need it the most?  The more I think about it though, great art, in its broadest definition: music, theater, film, design and paintings, have shaped my life.  When I hear a song I can remember where I was when I first heard it, who I was with and what I was wearing.  The power it holds over my life is immense and the ideas it has provoked are just as big.  I still remember the first time I saw a truly controversial art piece.  I must have been 6 or 7 and my mom took me to the Phoenix Art Museum, to see a show that had been making headlines.  It was a recent graduate of the school I would later go to, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, who had for his senior piece, put the flag on the floor and asked viewers to step on it to sign a guest book.  The artist, Dread Scott Tyler, called the piece, "What is the Proper Way to Display a U.S. Flag?."  At the time I couldn't have comprehended the fierce emotion that was involved with the issue, but I could sense how big of a deal it was and I remember really trying to figure out whether I thought it was ok.  Art has a way of pushing people, and starting debate, and whether or not it is crap doesn't matter, the point is it gets the issue out in the open and gets people to talk.  If nothing else, art and culture can change the world by simply refusing to stop creating.  There will always be some artist pushing the boundaries on what we as a society think about, not only issues, but also about what art is supposed to look like.  I am curious how you all feel about the subject?  My favorite television show is the West Wing and the other day I came across this line, which perfectly summarizes my feelings on the subject of art and society.  It is said by the character Toby Zeigler in reference to the possible dissolution of the NEA, "There is a connection between progress of a society and progress in the Arts. The age of Pericles was also the age of Phidias. The age of Lorenzo de Medici was also the age of Leonardo Da Vinci. The age of Elizabeth was the age of Shakespeare." Can you guys think of any other times, when great art coincided with a great society?

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