On a number of previous occasions, I have brought up my concern that the arts – particularly the arts in Cleveland – are at a tipping-point moment. I fear that the future is tipping toward a not-so-slow slide downward unless there is some fundamental change in how the arts open themselves up to the interests of youth and to broader cultural diversity.
An oped piece earlier this year laid out some early thoughts on this and a few other challenges, and it is a topic that has come again and again to mind as I look at my own cultural consumption in recent years.
True, I am not young. And my ethnicity is right down the middle of Cleveland’s Euro-centric cultural tradition: half Irish, half central European (Bohemia, if you must know). But I, too, am finding it harder and harder to give away an evening of my time sitting still in a dark theater or concert hall, especially once I’ve already gone home for the day or am feeling the weekend burden of home repair, yard work, and maintaining a relationship. I can’t even imagine how much harder it would be if there were children in the picture, or if I were still looking for a relationship.
When I look at how I choose to spend my personal creative time now, it’s in making things and doing things. I write poetry and am part of two very active writing groups. And I play and practice T’ai Chi with a skilled and generous teacher. I want to move my mind and my body, and these things are increasingly important to me.
I recently learned of a very interesting organization called Next Generation Consultants. This is a market research firm focused on understanding what younger consumers and early-career professionals want in all aspects of their lives, and how cities, arts organizations, and companies can both attract and retain the next generation’s interest and talent.
Learning, connecting, and sensing seem to be the watchwords for what younger individuals seek in their life experience, and more and more of them are subscribing to the philosophy “live first, work second.” Not a bad philosophy for us old folks, either, I’m thinking.