President Obama’s recent State of the Union address highlights an issue all artists in America today must face: funding for the arts is being curtailed in favor of increased funding for science, technology, engineering, and math. While I believe funding education of all types is a good investment in the future of our country, I know I am preaching in my blog when I ask the question: What about arts funding? So, I am not going to ask that question and I do not wish to provoke vitriolic rants against certain politicians (such as Kansas Governor Brownback’s proposed dismantling of the state Arts Commission). Instead, I want to raise awareness about a potential new way forward for us artists that can help us take advantage of the current political and educational climate. My suggestion: Let’s neither fight nor malign the “hard” sciences for receiving much more funding in this country than the arts. Instead, let’s partner with the sciences and find new avenues of exploration that take advantage of science and the arts together.
As an example, I’d like to put forward a collaboration that premiered in Kansas City this weekend. This collaboration, entitled Dark Matter, combined live electroacoustic music performance with astronomy projections and lecture in a planetarium. Video and reviews of the event can be found on the website http://www.darkmatterkc.com for your reference. In four performances, Dark Matter sold over 300 tickets to people of all ages, from kindergarten through adult. By partnering with local science and technology organizations, Dark Matter was able to reach many people who had never been to an electroacoustic concert before. More importantly, these same people enjoyed the experience.
In closing, I’d like to reiterate that the purpose of this letter is not to trumpet the success of Dark Matter. Instead, I offer this as one possibility of a new way forward where science and arts partner together to find new audiences. As a side benefit, these partnerships become eligible for science education grants. These science grants are much more widely available than arts grants, have more money to offer, and are hip to the appeal of interdisciplinary projects making arts/science collaborations very fundable by these grant review boards. I believe if we artists are going to survive in our current political climate then we must adapt to it. If electroacoustic music already has one foot inside the science/technology arena, why not take another step and create full partnerships? There is public interest in these collaborations. There is grant money and ticket revenue in these collaborations. The only question remains is whether there will be artists and scientists ready to make them happen?
Daniel Eichenbaum, Curator