Canary in the coal mine? ‘After Thoughts’ considers future of the arts
UW-Green Bay Prof. Ellen Rosewall tackled a timely topic during the first After Thoughts presentation of the academic year Oct. 7, presenting “Future of the Arts: Is the Green Bay Symphony the Canary in the Coal Mine?” before a full house in the Grand Foyer of the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts.
Drawing from a variety of recent and relevant examples, Rosewall examined the challenges and successes of symphonies, museums and other cultural organizations — including the titular century-old Green Bay Symphony, which announced last spring that its next season would be its last. Rosewall also highlighted nationwide and close-to-home successes — including the very venue in which she stood to give her talk.
“The demise of the Green Bay Symphony is part of some major changes, not just in the arts, but in society as a whole,” Rosewall said. “It took me about 30 seconds on Google to find more than a dozen examples of traditional arts organizations around the country that are closing their doors, struggling to survive. … It took me another 30 seconds to find examples of success stories.
“Which tells the true story? Both of them do. And more.”
Rosewall went on to detail characteristics of successful arts organizations — those that can and do thrive in today’s fast-paced, pop culture environment. These organizations think outside the box, Rosewall said, and they employ a sense of democracy, letting audiences — not just critics — be a part of deciding what’s good. They’re also experiential, letting audiences be a part of art, and they’re innovative, Rosewall said. Finally, successful organizations are integrated into community life, making them more relevant and bolstering the civic benefits they provide.
Rosewall closed her talk with an entreaty to those present, asking them to support the arts in a multitude of ways — and not just financially. Whether it’s taking a public art tour, bringing kids to museums instead of (or in addition to) Chuck E. Cheese, or spreading the word about great art in one’s community, we all have a role in helping the arts to survive and thrive, she said.
“If everybody here did every one of these things,” Rosewall said, “I think we’d be safe for another millennium.”
More information about After Thoughts is available at www.uwgb.edu/afterthoughts.
– Photos by Eric Miller, photographer, and Lauren Hlavka, student photography intern, Office of Marketing and University Communication