Saturday, August 08, 2009

When They Hear the Word "Culture" ....

Last evening this poster - sorry it was late at night and the camera just didn't focus for some reason - appeared on the streets around our place. When I went back this morning to take a better photo they had all been pasted over by another poster put up by a group who irresponsibly plastered their signs all over building fronts and store windows as well.

More Culture, Less Fear, it proclaims. An interesting thought given the line of the current government. While preaching cultural (and at times not so subtly, racial) supremacy they are cutting cultural budgets by 30%.

Here in Italy those cuts have meant that museums or specific sections of some museums have been closed or opening hours shortened; performing arts companies are shortening and in some cases canceling seasons. In one case a major ballet company, because it couldn't afford costumes, danced a new piece in nothing (men and women) but white briefs - to the delight of connoisseurs of buff bodies and the dismay of local burghers. Summer festivals have made major changes to schedules - sometimes only weeks before seasons were to begin.

As an example we are heading up to the Rossini Festival in Pesaro tomorrow and because of those cuts in government grants the season there has been shortened and one major production shelved. Like Wagner freaks, Rossini aficionados (notice the difference they're freaks, we're aficionados) travel from all over the world each year filling the local hotels and restaurants along with the normal feragosto holiday makers. And the people who attend the festival tend to be older or gay (or like us older gay) people with disposable income who will stay and eat at the higher end establishments and spend more money than your average vacationer. And it is telling that this year during peak season many of the hotels still have rooms available and are running "specials" during what would have been the third week of the festival. What impact has that government "saving" had on the local economy? How much revenue will be lost to the local merchants? How much in taxes collected? How many service industry jobs disappear?

As a sidebar, an interesting little item appeared in the Seattle Examiner this week concerning the arts and local economy. The Seattle Opera is presenting three cycle of Wagner's Ring from August 9th until the 30th. It is estimated that the visitors - who are coming from 23 countries for the performances - will bring an estimated 9.3 million dollars of much needed tourist revenue into the local economy. And that does not include the employment and service revenue created by the company itself. Funny how politicians, when railing against money given to the arts never seem to see past the "elitist" label they like to put on culture: 9.3 million dollars seems more like big business to me!

08 agosto - San Domenico Guzmán


Sling said...

Why is it the arts are always considered to be so disposable?
Maybe because not enough of that 9.3 million dollars finds it's way into the pockets of the politicians.


you know the world is going to hell in a handbasket when Italy cuts back on culture..they have culture coming out their ass...sigh*

Elizabeth said...

"More culture, less fear!" I like that! We need some of those posters here in the US too.