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Gulf & Main Magazine

Support for the Artistic World: Exploring The Symbiotic Relationship Between The Arts And Society

Oct 28, 2018 08:20AM

Perhaps you have recently read a good novel, watched a terrific film or listened to great music at a concert. Maybe you visited a museum or made a purchase from a local artist. Possibly you are studying an instrument or are enrolled in a creative arts class.

We know that the arts in general possess the potential to transport us from our everyday lives into other realms—engaging our imaginations, inviting contemplation and even providing profound, life-changing experiences. Each time we avail ourselves of the arts there is, of course, the expectation that something valuable will be given back in terms of support; hence the tickets we purchase to visit venues or attend events and the prices that artists ask for their work.

This is one aspect of the symbiotic relationship between arts and society. Just as human beings need the arts to thrive, artists depend upon their fellow humans to survive.

The patronage model that existed for centuries allowed a relatively small number of fortunate artists to pursue their work with the backing and blessing of kings and queens, members of the aristocracy or other privileged members of society. This also meant poor prospects for access to the arts by those who were not so privileged, and a precarious existence for artists because they remained subject to the whims of the rich and powerful.

While vestiges of this model persist (with wealthy philanthropists and donors assuming similar roles to those once played by the aristocracy), the arts today have become largely democratized in terms of access and participation, so that everyone has the ability to make his or her contribution. The artist no longer has to rely solely on a rich patron to exist, but rather can cultivate reciprocal relationships with a satisfied clientele.

In today’s saturated market there are an embarrassment of artistic riches available, and thus there are innumerable ways to offer support for the arts. This is both exciting and daunting at the same time, as there are so many deserving artists and organizations worthy of attention.

But as we consider where to lend our support, we tend to discover more about what moves and motivates us, learning more about ourselves and our life’s priorities in the process. When everybody participates, the arts flourish and the quality of our individual and collective lives is immeasurably improved—a win-win situation.

And how might all of us, as modern-day patrons of the arts, provide the support that is so needed and appreciated? Perhaps from the comfort of our homes, donating to one or more crowdfunding projects researched online, or purchasing handmade items by independent artists from websites such as artfire.com.

Or maybe taking a moment to leave valuable feedback for artists whose works we have appreciated, or declaring our enthusiasm for an upcoming performance on social media. Or possibly ushering tonight’s concert as a volunteer or heading to a local art fair. Or writing a check that will make all the difference in an artist’s life—just as that artist has made a difference in yours.


Pianist, instructor and musicologist Erik Entwistle received an undergraduate degree in music from Dartmouth College. He earned a post-graduate degree in piano performance at Washington University in St. Louis. He earned his doctorate in musicology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He teaches on Sanibel Island.