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Art in America: A Book Review of Curtains? The Future of Arts in America

By Brit McCarty
Junior Graphic Design major from Hood River, Oregon
Reviewed December 16, 2015

Curtains? The Future of the Arts in America, written by Michael M. Kaiser, discusses the past, current and future of the arts including, ballet, opera, symphonies and museums. Kaiser discusses how art used to be much more prevalent than it is today. It begins talking about how most industries have a way to consistently gain revenue. By simply increasing productivity, companies can make their product cheaper. He states that, “those of us in the arts, however, have a difficult time improving worker productivity. Musicians do not play Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony faster every year, nor are any fewer dancers required to perform Serenade than when George Balanchine first created it” (Kaiser, 4). So how do artistic companies gain revenue? Tickets sales are a large source for revenue for these companies, but if people opt to stay home, then the company cannot make as much money. If this happens then the dancers or musicians may not get paid as much, starting a potentially dangerous cycle.         

Other countries have government subsidies reserved for the arts. As Americans, we do not have that luxury, so the arts have had to get creative. There are a couple solutions such as donors, ticket sales and subscriptions. But, as we have become inducted into a society revolving around technology, people have slowly moved away from live entertainment such as operas and symphonies causing donors and subscriptions to slowly dwindle. Kaiser then goes on to discuss where the arts may be in the year 2035. He argues that the arts may never be as prevalent as they used to be and that they will continue to fade away. But then gives a few solutions of how we can reverse this trend.

Kaiser made some respectable points in his book. He brought light to a topic that I had not given much prior thought. His purpose was to encourage people, to shed light on the current situation and to do something about it. It provides statistics that cause concern and suggests solutions for the everyday American. This book invites the reader to take advantage of the freedom they have to make a difference.  Some of the solutions provided are to donate, continue going to musicals, operas and symphonies. Take children to these activities and share with them their significance. Because of the lack of art       

Kaiser, while having made some strong points, sounded a bit repetitive. Whilst reading his book, I found myself wanting more variety. At points it just seemed to be mundane. While it did seem to lull here and there, the author had some good solutions. I think that government subsidies could be very helpful. We have them for food, education, but why not the arts? I also think that tax exemptions would encourage donors, rather than push them away. Art companies are able to survive and expand through these donations and without them, these companies could very well wither away. In an ever technological society, it is important to continue the support of arts organization to ensure that they do not fade away in years to come.     

All in all, this may not be a book I would just pick up and read for fun, but I do believe that Americans should read it. It discusses a problem that many people would not realize is an issue and addresses how we can positively affect the future of arts in America.