Saturday, March 10, 2007

Free fall

The Rand Corporation recently published a report, Arts and Culture in the Metropolis - Strategies for Sustainability, which is available online. The report, which compared Philadelphia with ten other urban areas comparable in size, includes Pittsurgh as part of the study. The report analyzes the systems of support for the arts.

There are a large number of foundations in Pittsburgh as well as Philadelphia, many of which support the arts in some form. Some support only education initiatives, some support public programs. The public progrms encompass visual, performing and literary arts.

Unfortunately, foundation support is declining. Many of these organizations are in a position of having to develop new arenas of support for their endeavors. Pittsburgh, with its low median income, lacks indigenous support. You can see this when you go to gallery exhibits. Direct support of artists, through the purchase of artwork, is sadly lacking. A red dot is an occasion to celebrate because of its so-rare occurence.

The current exhibit at SPACE gallery, Home Away, expresses this in a very indirect way. The curator and artists in the exhibit have not posted a price list. And if you ask the gallery attendant for a price, your inquiry will be met with a flurry of embarassed activity as the attendant makes a number of phone calls tracking down the answer to your question.

The Post Gazette has an article about the Rand report with responses from Mr. McMahon, the President of the Cultural Trust. Some of the statistics quoted in the article give a very clear snapshot of the reasons for the lack of support. Like the highest per capita number of organizations per resident and the decided lack of cooperation among the organizations.

The solution for this dilemma is an elusive one. The Rand Corporation's conclusion that the arts would be well served if there was a strong central agency is a sound one. However, that conclusion is not neccessarily a solution. It would certainly help the arts organizations to have a strong central leadership and to coordinate their activites and promotions more closely. Individual support for the arts is what needs to be nurtured.


thad k said...

there is a price list. there has been one the entire run of the show. some things are "p.o.r." because thats what the artist requested. if someone wants to buy it bad enough then they will probably be patient if needed. its not a cheeseburger.
but, people dont buy art here. its a fact. that doesnt mean it sholudnt be shown.

Susan Constanse said...

Well, who said that the work shouldn't be shown? As for the price list, I asked for one at the opening, another individual that I know requested one, and all that was available was a map of the work laid out in the exhibit.

I really do think that artists and venues in Pittsburgh are so unused to the idea of selling work that the availability of purchasing information is a side issue. And honey, nobody is going to go out of their way to make a purchase.