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Eat your art out
Linda Holmes, writing for NPR, reports on a study done by the NEA which found that lower attendance to high cultural activities was related to a diminishing number of “omnivores”—people who are “are involved in both ‘highbrow’ and middle- or lowbrow activities.” Holmes argues that this is part of a larger tendency of isolation between people who have different cultural interests and affiliations:
…it’s not that interest in arts or creativity is declining; it’s that there’s a wedge between people who enjoy different kinds of culture, and that once again, we are connecting social status and cultural tastes in a way that’s bad for the kind of experimentation that makes people omnivores in the first place.
The remedy Holmes offers is an emphasis on what’s “fun” in art, and what’s “interesting” in culture. To ally fun and art, she says, is to build a bridge not just between cultural artifacts, but between people:
Omnivores thrive in an environment in which, if you are defined by your cultural interests, you at least don’t have to be defined by any one cultural interest. Tolerating the ideas that classical music can be viscerally stirring and that Survivor can be sociologically interesting allows much better balance — which benefits everyone — than an escalating and unnatural war between fun and art. Fun and art are natural allies (despite often appearing separately), and forcing them to do battle just divides us into tinier and tinier camps, where we can only talk to people who like precisely the same kinds of culture that we do. That benefits absolutely nobody — not artists, not audiences, and not the quality of discourse.