Source:New York State Council on the Arts, NY, NY (1970)
The opening song in Hair, the "American tribal love rock musical," heralds the age of Aquarius-a time of change. As the New York State Council on the Arts enters it second decade, its greatest challenge will be remaining responsive to the needs of a changing society in the throes of an aesthetic revolution. Concurrently, it faces the task of helping salvage some of
In 1970, the Metropolitan Opera, the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Rochester Symphony face imminent bankruptcy; most of the museums in the State are not much more secure. The insistent question of whether the State's largest cultural institutions can survive has an urgency today that ten years ago was barely a consideration. Laurance Roberts, the Council's first executive director, recommended to Governor Rockefeller and the Legislature in 1960 that an initial appropriation of $450,000 be spent to disseminate throughout the State the arts activities that were concentrated in a few metropolitan centers, most notably
What is this desperate financial crunch all about? Why, when grass roots arts groups and theatre companies are springing up in profusion - have emerged in
In the past, although the artist has been the most active patron of the arts in the
Thin rays of hope for funds from other sources peer fleetingly through the maze of governmental priorities and the euphemistic delusion of "corporate self-enlightenment." The corporate dollar is a particularly difficult one for an arts institution to obtain. Most of the time, such contributions are made specifically for presentations or events that provide advertising exposure for the corporation spending the money. Despite the formation of groups like the Business Committee for the Arts, the arts receive less than four cents of the corporate philanthropic dollar-and that dollar itself is only one-fifth of what it could be were corporations to take full advantage of charitable contributions under current tax provisions. There is also a tendency on the part of the business community to superimpose its own financial and organizational standards on the arts. The emphasis is more on the management of money than the quality of artistic accomplishment.
The healthiest aspect of government support of anything is the insistence with which it must consider the public. It is this quality that may ultimately hold the greatest promise for resolving such curious disparities as that between the phenomenon of
Most of the groups performing for street audiences are without legal framework, stability, and organization; they constantly pose an awkward problem for the tax-conscious patron. The technical polish of their work is limited when it exists at all, but the content is powerful, rich, and compelling. It is also uniquely American. When established arts institutions can involve audiences to the same extent as these grass roots companies, the arts will not only have the constituency they need for increased public funds, but they will be able to recognize the alchemy of money for what it isﾗand begin to repossess the elusive yet essential magic of human communication that is the essence of art.
John B. Hightower