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Capitalism and the Destruction of the Arts

Actually, this won't talk a lot about capitalism, but rather of the consequences, thanks to the human flaw of greed. It's a little bit of a click-bait title (sorry about that), because everyone has opinions on things like capitalism, which just happens to be a commonly-used vehicle of greed.

While I absolutely believe in working and pay-off and prosperity, this principle has unfortunately been hijacked. Recently in my French class, we have been discussing some articles etc. related to money, and there was one lesson in particular which I found extremely interesting. To begin with, we listened to an interview which discussed an OXFAM study on the global economy. I'm not sure if this is the exact study, as I don't have the precise information on that, but this is very recent, in any case: read here. The gist of it is that "eighty two percent of the wealth generated last year went to the richest one percent of the global population, while the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world saw no increase in their wealth". For those who are familiar with the "trickle down theory", where the wealth of the rich will supposedly trickle down to the less well-off, this study (and many others) contradict such a thing. It works up to a point, but we are well beyond that point, and are now seeing the gap widening substantially between rich and poor.

What does that have to do with the arts, you may ask? This failed trickle-down is not something which is only affecting individuals, but entire organisations. Money is being poured excessively and disproportionately into some areas, and certain people are assuming that this will benefit the arts etc. as well; wealth will include ticket purchases, sponsoring of arts organisations, and so on. Again, this is true to an extent. Many organisations DO benefit from wealthy benefactors. But it is not enough, especially for less "popular" or niche art forms.

Recently, I have looked on in sadness as I see more and more beloved artistic institutions being slowly destroyed. I accept that change needs to happen, in many cases - for example, some are rather inefficient with their time and money, and some have issues with their level of professionalism. But these are things which can easily be improved. Instead, what is happening is reduction of financial support, reduction of roles, reduction of resources, which are all resulting in a lower-quality product, and, in some cases, eventual closure. All of this "restructuring" is often happening without the input of the people who are affected. Who are the forgotten ones amongst all of this? The artists, and their livelihood and outlook.

I have had so many conversations recently with fellow creatives, and even some who are doing well by most people's standard have confessed that they are struggling. The arts are largely becoming unaffordable for artists - the costs of the careers outweigh the (uncertain) remuneration, to an extent where it is becoming unlivable in a world where prices keep rising exponentially.

What can we do to remedy this situation? I for one see a HUGE need for more business skills training in artistic professions and more encouragement of entrepreneurship. We as artists also need to value our skills more, and to teach others to value the arts and all that is involved with that. More artists of different disciplines working together. More willingness to confront these problems.

I would love to hear other people's thoughts on current issues and possible solutions, so please let me know what you think!

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