art and poverty

by lydiasee

Art has historically been created by people of all walks of life, and shared by virtually everyone on this planet. Whether in the form of decoration on one’s body or adorning ones walls, aesthetic stimulation is a considerably wide-ranging privilege.

Why then, has high art and culture in America become so inaccessible?

Is it due to the high cost of producing a Broadway play, symphony, or series of works? Or that proximity to large populations is insufficient, as the Altamira cave paintings, some eighty-five feet below the entrance to the cave?

It seems as if Art has gained the reputation of a luxury item, though not a hot commodity. A bore, not interesting, not a priority, possibly even pointless. Many influences effect this result, though the overarching distinction between the arts and the art-nots is poverty.

In a blue collar small town, what could popularly be considered craft is not seen as art, but rather tradition, work, or a hobby. A man works at a factory by day and makes violins for fun in his free time. A woman is a waitress to pay her bills, but she captures incredible photographs on her father’s old Brownie box camera. In a city where every blank wall is gilded with graffiti, is a mural considered art, or merely convenient decoration? Is a full sleeve custom tattoo wearable art? Or is it as simple as a modification to the body?

What naturally follows then is that the art world can be segregated into categories, and some of these categories only apply to certain groupings of individuals. Thus, exclusive viewings of select pieces, artists, types of culture become more and more exclusive, even bordering on privilege-based availability.

Therefore, if one is impoverished, one will not see the New York City Ballet.* Or the Met. Or The Producers, for that matter, or any work by Chuck Close. The list could go on, but those living in poverty deserve more than a list of the things they cannot do due to financial status. It’s more than just money in the pocket, what the impoverished lack, which in some way prohibits the access of said “high art” experiences, is a distinct. expectation of character. Just because someone is not in a suit or dress, knows nothing of Stravinsky, and has never been to the ballet, does not mean that this individual could not appreciate The Rites of Spring, would be disruptive, or that it would fall on deaf ears.

It’s not necessary to play the part of an Art Appreciator to appreciate art.

I believe that expectation is what discourages people in poverty from seeking out high culture.

*This is in no way demeaning or criticising these establishments for charging admisison or expecting that their viewers are finely tailored. It is simply a statement of the fact that many people may desire to see such things but have no means to.

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