A recent article from The New York Times Magazine has the creative community shaking its collective head in disgust.
By Ruth Vitale
Fifteen months ago, The New York Times ran an article by its chief film critic A.O. Scott that so perfectly captured the struggling state of the arts in the digital age it was quickly passed around among people who work in creative fields. I must have emailed it to dozens of friends and colleagues, many who had already read it or heard it discussed in their circles. It was as if the entire creative community was nodding its collective head in unison
In “The Paradox of Art as Work,” Scott outlines the pitfalls for creativity if the digital economy continues along current trends:
A concentration of big stars, blockbusters and best sellers — Beyoncé, “The Avengers” and their ilk — will sit at the top of the ladder. An army of striving self-starters will swarm at the bottom rungs, hoping that their homemade videos go viral, their self-published memoir catches fire or their MFA thesis show catches the eye of a wealthy buyer. The middle ranks — home to modestly selling writers, semi-popular bands, working actors, local museums and orchestras — are being squeezed out of existence.
The middle — that place where professionals do their work in conditions that are neither lavish nor improvised, for a reasonable living wage — is especially vulnerable to collapse because its existence has rarely been recognized in the first place. Nobody would argue against the idea that art has a social value, and yet almost nobody will assert that society therefore has an obligation to protect that value by acknowledging, and compensating, the labor of the people who produce it.
Scott spoke to the frustration many creatives feel about the havoc that the digital revolution has wreaked on creatives’ ability to make a living doing what they love – being creative. We were all pleased to see those frustrations getting the attention they deserved.
Last week, my email inbox was once again deluged by reactions from friends and colleagues to an article about the current state of creative industries. This time, it was Steven Johnson’s article in The New York Times Magazine, “The Creative Apocalypse that Wasn’t.” Only instead of nodding our heads in unison like we did when we read A.O. Scott, Johnson had us all shaking our heads in confusion and disgust. Personally, I was shaking my fists, and, for those of you how know me, perhaps a few vocal epithets.