Wyoming Arts Council

"Engaging Art" in the Gen-Y world

One of the major issues discussed at the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies conference in Baltimore is this: how to get more young people involved in the arts.

The best session (thus far) devoted to this topic was entitled “Engaging Art” taken from Steven Tepper’s book, “Engaging Art: The Next Great Transformation of America’s Cultural Life.” Tepper is a staff member of the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

As you can imagine, the next great transformation in America’s cultural life involves technology. Along with that, it’s the ways that the up-and-coming generations use it. Gen-X and Gen-Y and the Millennials and all the other post-Baby Boomer generations, are using the Internet to create and exhibit their own art. No surprise there. What is surprising are the number of Boomers that are following in the children’s (and grandchildren’s) footsteps. People are creating movies on YouTube, blogging on their favorite passion, and composing old-timey-style cowboy songs.

According to Tepper, if you don’t know some of these terms you’re hopelessly out of the loop: cosplay, machinima, fanfic, blogging, podcasting, and life catching. All these types of multimedia forms are being composed electronically, without the help of grants from Arts Councils, mainly because we (including the WAC) don’t give grants for these art forms.

Young people, especially, aren’t waiting for some sort of approval or mediation for their elders. They create and download, waiting for a response from their peers.

This isn’t just happening in the U.S. Tepper showed surveys that attendance at public art events is down all over the western world. All kinds of participation in the public sphere has decreased. That includes voting, going to church, playing sports, and joining clubs and organizations. New social networks are evolving on the web, ones that are more conducive to the tastes of the new generation of pro-ams and omnivorous learners (more about those descriptions in later posts).

A very interesting time. Some of us in the arts biz are freaked out by it. Others see new opportunities. One thing seemes clear: a big change is already underway.

Can’t find machinima in your Funk & Wagnall’s? Better get Tepper’s book.

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