Today, the Los Angeles Times culture blog shared some unfortunate findings from a National Endowment for the Arts report: the number of American adults attending arts and cultural events has sunk to its lowest level since 1982. The economic climate is certainly one reason for the decrease, which might explain why adults are attending performances – museum shows, classical music concerts, opera, ballet, theater and jazz concerts – less frequently now than in 2002. Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that audiences are increasingly relying on new media and the Web to appreciate the arts, according to an NEA survey that polled 18,000 adults. That is, “the mode of delivery is rapidly changing.” Here’s an excerpt from the article:
“It sends a message to us that technology is increasing access to the arts, not only to artmaking, but also arts participation,” said Joan Shigekawa, NEA’s senior deputy chairman. “Now you are no longer geographically bound to see a live performance. Also, there is something about this technology that emboldens people to express themselves.”
Should we celebrate what technology has done for access to the arts, or mourn the impact that technology has had on live audiences? Is sitting alone at home in front of a computer screen while watching a dance performance really the same as experiencing the same performance in a theater with other audience members? Does it matter? What do you think?